Four years in, shifts in Barack Obama strategy, outlook

Barack obama

``Four years in, he has a very good sense of the job,'' says senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. ``He has a great sense of what is possible if you do have the American people behind you and willing to push with you to make change.''

Change has not come easily in Washington however, which remains as divided as ever. Republicans largely blame Obama's wrong-headed presidential policies and unyielding tactics for the persistent partisanship. And some in the president's own party wonder whether his new, tougher rhetoric truly will result in firmer stands.

The public, for its part, has revised its own assessment of Obama over the past four years.

Polls show the president is still regarded as a good communicator, friendly, well-informed, caring, trustworthy. But there's been a significant slide in the share who see him as a strong leader and as someone who can get things done.

Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center thinks Obama's numbers on that count are due to rebound somewhat, given recent improvement in his approval ratings. His approval numbers are back in the mid-50s after dipping into the 40s at times in 2011 and 2012. But they're still nowhere near the 60s and 70s of his first few months in office.

The president himself came out of his re-election victory convinced he has a stronger hand, and eager to use it before power inevitably ebbs later in his second term. He says he won't negotiate with Republicans on raising the debt limit. He's used his executive powers to act unilaterally to try to reduce gun violence.

That emboldened re-election outlook is coupled with a determination to stay above the day-to-day fighting in Washington's trenches and to keep the public with him.

In announcing a package of proposals this week to reduce gun violence, the president did what he could on his own, but also acknowledged that the most important provisions require congressional approval, and said it would take a demanding public to make that happen.

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