"I think that's probably the best bet, that what will dominate the debate of the four years will likely be something that is not on the radar right now." says Laurenti. He points to several examples: President Obama was dealt an economic crisis that, by Inauguration Day, was revealing itself to be disastrous. President George W. Bush confronted the September 11 attacks nine months into his presidency. The Monica Lewinsky scandal derailed Bill Clinton's second term.
All of which is to say that no matter what Obama promised on the campaign trail, he will invariably have to make some unexpected decisions.
"I really think that very seldom presidents get to have a four-year mandate based on what they would like to do," says Laurenti. "Reality always comes in with some curveballs."
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Danielle Kurtzleben is a business and economics reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.