A reader nails it:
I stumbled upon this Roger Cohen article from November. It's interesting. That wasn't a great point in Obama's term, and I think he represented the conventional wisdom quite well. Reading it helps clarify for me how much stronger Obama's position is now. The fundamental question in the article is, "Can Obama close anything? Is there a middle game?"
Let's take a quick glance at the current landscape: Obama has passed the biggest reform of our health care system in decades, including near universal coverage; for all the criticism Obama took about the length of his Afghanistan deliberation, including that he was projecting a lack of resolve that would undermine the cause, we now have an undeniable momentum that's likely making some a little too optimistic; the Administration's efforts in Pakistan have resulted in some very positive trends, including an increased willingness to take on the Taliban; the reset with Russia has resulted in a new nuclear arms treaty, along with moving the Russians far closer in line with us in terms of sanctions on Iran; the economy is poised to start creating jobs; so on and so on.
It really is too easy to forget that anything meaningful or hard requires a long game.
But no one should doubt Obama's talent, strength, and ability to adapt to the job by this point. Perhaps I'll be proven wrong very soon, but I think we're entering a new stage in terms of coverage.
Concrete, big achievements tend to act as anchors. News cycles faster than ever before, but now there's an undercurrent of undeniable success and progress.
What I find remarkable was the discipline with which Obama didn't take the bait from the far right and play this game on their terms. It took the British Tories a decade and a half to lose the "Nasty Party" label. Even now it haunts them with moderate voters. Maybe America is completely different and an anti-gay, anti-green, anti-universal healthcare, pro-torture right can ride success in this country. But I suspect that Obama has called this one right; and once confidence returns that he can deliver, the energy will return.
Shorter version: the GOP just had a premature political ejaculation. Obama, meanwhile, has just got his groove on.