President Obama may be looking forward to 2011 as he spends his Christmas holiday in Hawaii, but if the president is hoping to put the midterm election defeat and other issues behind him, it's possible 2010 could follow the White House into the new year, and is probably going to continue to influence how the administration works through domestic policies in 2011 and beyond.For many, even within the Democratic party, the president's biggest misstep was health care legislation. While Obama made the reform of health care a major cornerstone of his 2008 campaign, he found once he got into office that even a legislative victory in March could spell trouble in the voting booths in November.
Doug Schoen, a Democratic strategist, says the biggest mistake in 2010 was "the miscalculation" the president could succeed on health care with a limited Democratic majority. And Schoen says, clearly the president learned his lesson. "His biggest accomplishment was the bi-partisan tax deal," Schoen told Fox News. "He had taken a shellacking in the midterm, had a weak hand to play and lo and behold, he got the deal through."
The success the president had in reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans on the tax cut deal even strikes some within that party as the strongest point in 2010 for Obama.
"Their first step towards their political salvation of reclaiming the middle and winning independents back was the tax cut compromise. It showed that they have some ability to sort of work towards the solutions that are geared towards some sort of economic benefit and in a way shows that the president is learning the lessons of the 2010 election," says Kevin Madden, a former campaign spokesman for Mitt Romney in 2008.
But Madden cautions, even if there was progress late in the year, the administration made some costly mistakes, early and often throughout 2010.
"If the White House has one regret it's that they didn't persuade the American public that they were focused like laser on jobs; that all of the little things that they did added up to a big economic argument," Madden told Fox News.
The president and his family also faced some heavy criticism this year during the summer months as oil gushed into the gulf from the BP spill. In early May, the president visited Mississippi, Alabama and the gulf coast of Florida, urging Americans to eat gulf seafood and swim in the warm waters. But, he didn't follow his own advice, instead taking a family vacation in Bar Harbor, ME in July. He faced such a backlash, the family later made a second vacation weekend and went south, with the president and his daughter Sasha taking a dip in the waters off Panama City Beach, FL.
Political analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics says the way the White House handled the BP incident was indicative of how the White House handles public relations problems.
"It's a keystone cops routine. First he says everything's fine. Then, of course, we found out it wasn't. Then he may have overreacted by banning too much off-shore drilling which helped to increase the price of gas, which becomes a major issue in his re-election campaign," Sabato says. "So, it can all connect together. And the gaffes that matter are ones that affect the future, particularly in a re-election year."
The gaffes from 2010 could end up following Obama as he gears up for a potential re-election campaign. Experts point out that within the White House and the inner circle there's a lack of expertise in certain areas that could adversely affect the president. But, those same experts say it's clear the lame-duck session of Congress taught Obama a number of lessons."I think from the lame-duck session, it's pretty clear the president knows that the political positioning of the first two years is a non-starter for reelection," says Schoen.