Two years ago it was all about hope and change.
Now Americans are being asked to assess to what extent President Obama has achieved these lofty goals.
If the polls are true, he has lost much of his support and risks losing control of both houses of Congress to the Republicans, which will make his job much harder.
“Make no mistake,” he told a Democrat rally. “If the other side does win, they will spend the next two years fighting for the very same policies that led to this recession in the first place. The same policies that left the middle class behind for more than a decade. The same policies that we fought so hard to change in 2008.”
Obama will be judged first on the economy. Inheritor of the worst crisis since the Great Depression, his measures to beat it have been solid but not spectacular.
He kept his pledges to bring more regulation to Wall Street and pass an economic stimulus package worth more than 800 billion dollars.
But the latter has not yet borne fruit, at least where the job market is concerned. The US unemployment rate is almost 10 percent compared to a pre-crisis level of around four percent.
He also managed to push through healthcare reform, giving health coverage to 32 million Americans who didn’t have it. But the bill is complex and difficult to understand, while around twenty states have appealed to the courts, deeming it unconstitutional.
But Obama will be unable to jam through anything as ambitious and divisive as that if there are more Republicans in Congress. And even Democrats concede that is likely.
Jennifer Palmieri of the Center for American Progress says:
“You will have a number of very conservative Republican members of the Tea Party, which is the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party and suddenly the House will go from being the most progressive chamber to being one that represents the most right-wing sectors of the Republican Party.”
Obama’s worst case scenario would be what happened to Bill Clinton, who lost both houses after his first mid-terms.
For former George W. Bush advisor Bradley Blakeman, Obama will have lessons to learn from the past and may need to improve his cooperation with the Republicans:
“If he were smart, he would start reading up on what Clinton did after 1994. Clinton realised that in order to provide the kind of accomplishment he needed to get re-elected, he had to work across the aisle,” Blakeman says.
Obama may need to work on his ability to make friends of enemies if the next two years aren’t to be his last as President.