The President's legislative agenda, that is. Fresh from its reelection, the Administration faces the very real prospect that it will get nothing significant through Congress this year (or next). Remember gun control? That went nowhere. Immigration reform? On ice in the House of Representatives. A big budget deal? Nope. Climate change legislation? Forget it.
So what happened? Maybe this is Sandy's dysfunctional Constitution at work. Maybe it is the problem the bedevils most presidents in their second term--they lose clout because they are lame ducks. I think, though, that there are a few special factors at work now that were not present for prior presidents.
1. The 2010 Gerrymander: Republicans did very well in the midterm elections. More important, they did very well in a year that determined congressional redistricting and that was loaded with elections for governors in big states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin). This was an odd conjunction that (I think) was unprecedented. The result is that the subsequent redistricting was very favorable to the GOP. Even though Democrats received more votes in congressional races nationwide in 2012, the Republicans held the chamber. Nobody seems to think that Democrats have a chance of doing better in 2014. Thus, the House has a greater margin to resist presidential leadership.
2. The Senate filibuster: The view that it takes 60 votes to get any significant (non-budget) legislation through the Senate is now a widely accepted norm. That was not true (except for civil rights laws) until the Bush 43 Administration. This, of course, makes it much harder to get things passed.
3. Chief Justice Roberts' opinion in The Health Care Cases: If you look at what the Chief did in Sebelius, one could conclude that he saved the Republican majority in the House and some Senate seats. I tend to think that a decision striking down the Affordable Care Act would have energized the President's supporters and given him a powerful issue in the campaign. You can make the opposite argument, of course, and I'm not sure history offers any clear guidance on that question. But it's something that I'm looking into.