By Dan Balz
The Washington Post
President Barack Obama likes to say he will never again be running for office, but every Democrat knows he will be on the ballot figuratively in 2014, and 2016, as well. Right now they are rightly nervous about that prospect.
A month ago, political Washington was transfixed by the errors committed by congressional Republicans. Those missteps led to a partial shutdown of the government, which in turn has brought approval of the GOP to record lows in many public opinion surveys.
Nothing about that has changed. But today, it's Obama in the spotlight. A president famous for his unflappability, he is now struggling to square assurances that he is on top of the problems confronting his administration with assertions that he was unaware of the problems as they were developing.
The president's apology for misleading people about whether they could keep their health insurance under the terms of the Affordable Care Act, which came during an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd, was a remarkable step, underscoring just how concerned he and his advisers are about the damage caused by the chaotic rollout of the new law.
Obama long has been among the most self-confident of politicians and has not often been willing to acknowledge error in such a straightforward way. Where he has acknowledged shortcomings or disappointments, he has rarely included the kind of contrition he expressed to the people who took him at his word and have since seen their health-care policies canceled.
His mea culpa was all the more notable because it came only a few days after he had attempted to put a retrospective asterisk on those original assurances, enunciated as he sought to sell his controversial health-care plan to a skeptical public.
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Obama faces two urgent problems. The first is to make the Affordable Care Act work. That begins, but does not end, with fixing the balky website HealthCare.gov. He and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have promised the site will be running smoothly by the end of this month.