It's not lost on the president. In an interview over the summer, he said if he's re-elected he hopes to work with Republicans, but if they won't compromise to his liking, "I'll work around them."
Some insist Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in particular, is facing a decision point.
In 2010 McConnell famously said his party's top priority was to make Obama a one-term president. This Democrat pointed out McConnell will be up for re-election in 2014 and posed a question.
"Does he want to go into his re-election cycle as obstructionist in chief? That will be a big choice he'll have to make."
However, McConnell represents Kentucky, a consistently Republican state that most recently sent tea party advocate Rand Paul to the Senate. Battling the leader of the Democratic Party could be good politics for the senior Republican senator.
The other bites at the apple could include corporate tax reform and the use of executive authority to promote a clean energy agenda. Given the current politics, realistic Democrats say the most the president is likely to get on energy legislation is a reauthorization of the administration's clean energy tax credits.
There is not much political will to promote spending on infrastructure, though the president often discusses putting construction workers back to work. There are ways he can front-load spending on infrastructure investment already in the pipeline, but beyond this his opportunities seem limited.
After about 18 months, the nation's capitol will turn to the midterm elections and members of Congress who are up for re-election. This is typically when a second-term president focuses a great deal on the other side of his portfolio: traveling the world as a solo actor, commander-in-chief.
Despite the challenges, senior White House adviser David Plouffe sounded optimistic about the state of play past November 7.
"Campaigns are tough. Folks in Congress, people understand campaigns are tough. We've got big challenges," Plouffe said. "When that's over people will dust themselves off and attention will appropriately turn to that away from politics."