Six Keys to Obama's Second Term

Presidential second terms have a bad name. The traditional view is that presidents are stuck with first-term leftovers on their plates and a calendar that calls on them to get any legislation through Congress in the first 18 to 24 months. After that, few in Congress listen because the chief executive's time in office is limited.

President George W. Bush discovered the limits of his authority with his signature second term legislative efforts on Social Security and then immigration reform. President Bush made little progress gathering support for personal retirement accounts for Social Security, despite five months spent campaigning for the program in 2005; in the end, he refocused his attention on an alternative policy effort. On immigration, he made a similar push for a combination of border security initiatives and a temporary worker program. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 died in June of that year; immigration supporters could not muster even a Senate majority for the legislation.

Despite this, the final four presidential years for President Barack Obama need not be a hopeless time. Any period of change represents opportunities. For him, these include finishing first-term business, cementing earlier victories through the implementation of legislation, bringing in a fresh team experienced in governing, and folding in new agenda items.

How can President Obama and his team take advantage of his opportunities? First, working in his favor is an environment where the economy is slowly on the upswing, with unemployment steadily going down, consumer confidence and housing construction on the rise, and a move toward energy self-sufficiency. Second, he won on an agenda of support for the middle class, with pledges not to increase their taxes and support for education, energy, and immigration programs benefiting many of them. In his re-election, he had strong support across a broad variety of constituencies and picked up seats in the House and Senate. Republican congressional leaders are likely to support some types of legislation party members failed to support in earlier years, such as immigration legislation.

Read Full Article>>