I think President Obama will benefit politically from the tax compromise, both because the economy will improve–somewhat, anyway–and because some voters will perceive him as more of a centrist. But I agree with Peggy Noonan that Obama didn’t help himself with those who actually watched his press conference:
We have not in our lifetimes seen a president in this position. He spent his first year losing the center, which elected him, and his second losing his base, which is supposed to provide his troops. There isn’t much left to lose! Which may explain Tuesday’s press conference. …
The president must have thought that distancing himself from left and right would make him more attractive to the center. But you get credit for going to the center only if you say the centrist position you’ve just embraced is right. If you suggest, as the president did, that the seemingly moderate plan you agreed to is awful and you’ll try to rescind it in two years, you won’t leave the center thinking, “He’s our guy!” You’ll leave them thinking, “Note to self: Remove Obama in two years.”
Noonan takes seriously the current talk in Washington that Obama may face a primary challenge from the left in 2012:
Modern presidents are never challenged from their base, always by the people who didn’t love them going in. You’re not supposed to get a serious primary challenge from the people who loved you. But that’s the talk of what may happen with Mr. Obama.
In my view, the chance of a serious challenge from the left–i.e., one by someone other than Dennis Kucinich or his ilk–is very slim. Liberals know that Obama is one of them, and at the end of the day they will try hard to re-elect him. In my view, the tax compromise made that task easier, even if Obama’s press conference performance didn’t.