Salena Zito

As soon as the next Congress starts to confront Obama over spending cuts, you'll likely see things slide back to where they were pre-tax cut: Liberals will stick with him so long as he stands strong or vetoes any GOP spending cuts; moderates and independents who lean GOP will get mad at him again for not compromising and for being too partisan.

In other words, the lame-duck session was hardly a comeback. It might more aptly be considered a holiday break, or the calm before the political storm, or a respite before the replay of confrontational politics.

Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Harry Truman really are the only presidents who took low approval ratings after their first midterms and turned them into wins by the time of their re-election campaigns.

Reagan's comeback often is attributed to the economy’s quick turn-around in 1983 and 1984. Clinton's typically is associated with his leadership following the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995 and his willingness to play political chicken with House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the GOP Congress over the 1995 budget.

It’s hard to imagine Obama successfully replaying Clinton's strategy, largely because House GOP leader John Boehner is not Gingrich and today’s Republicans will be wiser than Gingrich about forcing spending cuts.

If Obama effectively makes an argument, as Clinton did, that he is “protecting” Americans and that Congress is trying to "blackmail” him, then it is possible that he might stage a comeback.

So far, he and his team have not demonstrated the prowess to pull off that one.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.