"It looked about as close to a mandate as a president can get heading into a second term in a down economy," Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, recalled at a Bloomberg Government breakfast last week. "The numbers were stunning, when you look at the historical reality of what a president with those kind of unemployment numbers typically faces."
"No doubt about it. I would say this is the worst year of the presidency," said Robert Gibbs, Obama's former press secretary, Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Obama's agenda ran into trouble immediately. Gun-control legislation he proposed after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., foundered. The administration's attempts to win agreement from Republicans to stave off automatic budget cuts before they took effect March 1 failed. Then their impact was largely shrugged off by the public, even after his warnings about how they would hurt the economy.
A new immigration law — which Obama on Friday called "probably the biggest thing that I wanted to get done this year" — stalled in the Republican-controlled House.
Disclosures by Edward Snowden of National Security Agency bulk surveillance of phone records and Internet communication provoked criticism from civil libertarians and foreign allies.
Obama shared in the public blame for the government shutdown, and troubles with the federal HealthCare.gov website dominated news coverage of the health law for the first two months after its Oct. 1 start.
By the week ended Dec. 15, Obama's 42 percent job approval in the Gallup Poll was down 10 percentage points from the same week a year earlier and akin to the 41 percent figure at this point in the administration of Bush, who left office one of the most unpopular presidents in recent history.
Much of the falloff in support for Obama has been among political independents, many of whom appear to be deserting him because they don't see tangible accomplishments, said Michael Dimock, director of the Pew Research Center in Washington.