The president has struggled to pass any major economic legislation since 2010. Instead, he's been jumping from one political crisis to the next. Fights over federal budget and spending levels locked Congress in multiple battles in 2011 and 2012 that nearly led to the shutdown of the government.
The narrative didn't always fall in Obama's favor; nor did the policies that ensued. Republicans shifted the conversation from economic stimulus to deficit reduction. The president jumped on the deficit-reduction bandwagon and made that a priority.
Through protracted political battles over the size of the government, forced spending cuts, which sliced up to 10% of most of the federal budget, went into effect. It wasn't the president's favorite idea, however, for how to revive the economy.
He still had hopes of repairing old bridges and building new windmills. So did his supporters, who grew frustrated with the president.
"We're getting tired. ... The unemployment is unconscionable. We don't know what the (president's) strategy is," Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, said in 2012.
But in the frame of deficit reduction, Obama was able to obtain a few concessions. He won a series of tax increases, including an increase on the top tax earners: those making more than $400,000 per year.
And the needle moved.
The budget cuts, tax increases and a recovering economy will reduce the deficit by about $4 trillion over 10 years, according to the White House.
The nation's debt ratio to size of the gross domestic product is expected to stabilize in the next decade, which economists hail as good for the economy.
The foreign affairs president
While the president came into office with little experience in foreign affairs and hopes to implement an expansive domestic agenda, overseas conflict has kept his plate full.
He expanded the war in Afghanistan and ended the war in Iraq. He kept his attention on the citizen-led revolts that swept the Arab world and expanded the use of drones.
Under his administration, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed and the U.S. joined a NATO campaign to overthrow Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and Obama is now working on an intense campaign to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria's civil war.
Although presidents are forced to walk and chew gum at the same time, world events have created challenges for Obama's ability to implement his domestic agenda.
"When you look at issues like military strikes in Syria ... it takes the full time and attention of the leaders," Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute said recently.
As the president decided to hold off on a military strike in Syria while Secretary of State John Kerry works with his counterpart in Russia to devise a plan to rid the regime of its chemical weapons, the president attempted to revitalize discussion of his domestic agenda.
"Even as we have been spending a lot of time on the Syria issue ... it is still important to recognize that we've got a lot more stuff to do here in this government," Obama said during a meeting with his Cabinet on Thursday.
Economist Mark Zandi said that, all things considered, the president has been fairly successful on the domestic front.
"It has been a tough road, but I think he did a pretty good job," said Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics.
But economist Baker offered a more critical perspective, saying the president hasn't shown a willingness to push an economic agenda.
"Let's say Syria didn't happen. What would he be doing right now? I am not sure he has some agenda that is being obstructed by events in the world," he said.
Syria aside, much of the White House's attention this fall will be spent on getting Americans to sign up for the health insurance exchanges, the heart of the Affordable Care Act. Open enrollment begins October 1, and the administration is expected to spend $8.7 million on a media blitz to promote the exchanges.
Second term, second chance
After his re-election, the president hoped to reset his economic agenda. In his 2013 State of the Union address, Obama said he will work to "reignite the true engine of America's economic growth: a rising, thriving middle class."
This summer, he launched a campaign to revive his focus on the economy.