HERE are two realities about US president's second terms: They aren't cursed, but they are rarely better than their first ones.
As Barack Obama becomes the 17th president to win a second term, historians offer useful context.
" President Obama has read the literature and understands overreach," says Michael Beschloss, one of the scholars who recently had dinner with the president. "This puts him one step ahead of most" re-elected presidents.
That sentiment contrasts with the mood of many Democrats. In conversations with a dozen Democratic politicians, there is a pervasive pessimism about the next several years. Almost all requested anonymity, not out of fear, they say, but to avoid giving solace to Republicans.
The political world, they say, is as poisonous as it ever was. It isn't much of an exaggeration to say that when most House Republicans wake up, their first thought is, "How can we stick it to Obama today?"
The fiscal struggles won't be settled in the next few months; more likely they'll be prolonged through the year, crowding out most other issues.
Some conditions are beyond a president's influence. Saturation news coverage takes more of a toll in a second term. "One of the greatest threats to the modern presidency is overexposure," historian Richard Norton Smith says. "There will be Obama fatigue."
Robert W. Merry, who has written about how presidents are evaluated, suggests "it's almost impossible to find a president who had a second term better than his first."