WASHINGTON — Over and over, Barack Obama told voters if they stuck with him "we will change this country and change the world.” They did, and now their expectations for him to deliver are firmly planted on his shoulders. Many supporters greeted his victory with euphoria. Impatient for a new era and overcome by a black man’s historic ascension to the White House, they took his achievement for their own. But campaign rhetoric soon collides with the gritty duties of governing, and hard realities stand in Obama’s way.
Global challengesAtop Obama’s challenge list is the global and domestic turmoil that he inherits. None of it is his own making, but it will shape his presidency before he lifts one finger. The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Two wars in unstable lands. Other foreign hot spots such as Pakistan and Congo, nuclear standoffs with North Korea and Iran. A warming planet. Then there are high health care and energy costs, sunken home values, wiped-out retirement and investment accounts. A federal deficit that is exploding as the nation throws money at its economic problems, sure to crimp Obama’s ability to spend his way to solutions.
Political challengesObama has a largely liberal voting record and owes a debt to the left wing of the Democratic Party, which mobilized millions on his behalf. But Obama also appealed to the broader electorate as a pragmatist who pledged virtually party-blind government. Matt Bennett of the group Third Way said that Obama is for centrist ideas such as middle-class tax cuts and seems likely to wait on contentious goals such as overhauling the U.S. health care system. "We do believe him when he says he’s a moderate,” Bennett said. "We think that’s how he’s going to govern.”