"As Bill Clinton learned," Zelizer said, an improving economy "can really carry your presidency forward."
The International Monetary Fund is raising its outlook for the U.S. economy, as the budget accord and a decision by the Federal Reserve to taper its bond buying ease doubts about the future, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said.
"We see a lot more certainty for 2014," Lagarde said in an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." She didn't specify any new figures in the interview.
In the year ahead, Democrats are pushing for progress on revamping immigration policy and dealing with climate change.
In his news conference, Obama cited "indications" that House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, would "try to move forward legislation early next year." Immigration activists are pressing Obama to use his executive authority to meet their aims if Congress doesn't act. Obama also has said he'll address climate change through executive actions, including rules that would require power plants to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The president talked up the possibility that things will improve, declaring at the press conference that "2014 can be a breakthrough year for America."
This year certainly wasn't for him.
Obama was returned to office with the largest share of votes cast in a re-election bid since Ronald Reagan in 1984, even with an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent — the highest for any president's re-election since monthly records have been kept.
He forced Republicans to capitulate to a tax increase on the wealthy as the New Year rang in. He used his second-term inaugural address to ask for a reversal of decades of public skepticism of big government in favor of an assertive role in promoting a "never-ending journey" toward equality for all.