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POLITICS: White House

100 days into Obama's second term, window of opportunity seen closing fast

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Photo - President Barack Obama walks across the South Lawn to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama walks across the South Lawn to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Politics Digest,Barack Obama

One hundred days into his second term, President Obama has not accomplished any part of his ambitious legislative agenda. And the window to turn things around is closing fast.

For Obama, the past three months were critical to building momentum for legacy-defining achievements, starting with gun control and comprehensive immigration reform. Like any second-term president, the sprint from Inauguration Day is seen as the most productive time for major new laws.

But the president enjoyed no honeymoon at the start of his second term. Even his push for expanded background checks on gun purchases, which the White House trumpets as an issue with the backing of 90 percent of Americans, was too steep a climb on Capitol Hill.

Obama has alternated between stretches of blasting Congress and wooing lawmakers, essentially running his own good-cop, bad-cop routine. Neither strategy has worked so far. And some Obama supporters are now expressing concern that the first 100 days of the second term were wasted.

"It's obviously not for a lack of trying," one former Obama White House official told The Washington Examiner. "But let's be honest. What they're doing isn't really working, regardless of who deserves the blame. And I don't see any silver bullet for where they go from here, other than flipping the House."

Obama has openly admitted that winning back the House in 2014 is his surest path to legislative success.

"When Democrats have the opportunity to set the agenda, then we don't have a country where just a few are doing really, really well," Obama said at a Democratic fundraiser last week in Dallas. "That's what we're fighting for."

However, second-term presidents are traditionally a drag on their party in midterm elections. And most analysts doubt the prospects of a Democratic takeover of the lower chamber, particularly in the wake of redistricting.

Immigration reform, seen as the most likely Obama initiative to pass the House and Senate, is also an issue on which the president has stayed on the sidelines. Senators behind the bipartisan push asked the president to lay low so as to not alienate skittish Republicans, forcing Obama to play a waiting game.

The White House contends that nobody will remember or much care about tactics if immigration reform is eventually enacted under Obama's watch. But if the president is viewed as too toxic, he'll certainly face pressure to dial down his rhetoric during future debates.

Noting the challenges of the past 100 days, some analysts suggested Obama focus on smaller issues, saying he risked getting nothing accomplished by continuing to press for new gun restrictions or other items with little chance of passing the Republican-controlled House.

"The first three months have been marked by one crisis after another -- whether it's self-inflicted or world events," said Christopher Hahn, a Democratic strategist. "The question he's got to ask himself: Is it even worth it? I think he might need to focus on other things in the short term. Congress just isn't going to play."

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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Brian Hughes

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner