Obama Searching For a Key Victory

President needs a win to cement his second term.

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President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks about his proposed fiscal 2014 federal budget on April 10, 2013, in the Rose Garden of the White House.

Behind President Obama's strong policy offensives on a variety of fronts is a matter of growing urgency: He needs a major victory soon on at least one high-stakes issue or he risks sliding toward lame-duck status in his second term, political strategists say.

"The clout starts diminishing if he doesn't have some breakthrough on the big issues soon," says Ken Duberstein, former White House chief of staff for President Ronald Reagan.

[READ: Liberals Oppose Obama Over Entitlement Cuts]

This explains why Obama has been pushing so hard to win congressional passage of a deficit-reduction package, gun control legislation and a comprehensive immigration bill – three of his top priorities. Democratic advisers say he is probably at the high point of his influence now, only a few months after his re-election triumph, and this is the best time to win some Congressional victories.

Presidents tend to lose influence in their second terms as the political establishment and the country begin to focus on choosing their successors, but it usually doesn't happen until their final two years in office.

Obama hopes to avoid this fate by bending Congress to his will now and building on that success to keep fellow Democrats in control of the Senate and give them control of the House in the 2014 mid-term elections.

Obama released a 2014 budget blueprint Wednesday that showed his intense desire to find a "grand bargain" that would put the government on a path to major deficit reduction and put the economy on a path toward a strong recovery.

[BROWSE: Political Cartoons on the Deficit and Budget]

His proposals included provisions designed to court at least a few Congressional Republicans, who have stymied his agenda in the past. One such provision is to cut benefits for Social Security recipients in an effort to save money. This is causing a backlash among liberals who consider it a betrayal of the Democratic party's commitment to the elderly.

But Obama strategists argue that his top priority is to somehow bring balky GOP legislators to his side. Obama held a private dinner at the White House with a dozen GOP senators Wednesday night, his second such dinner with Republicans senators in recent weeks.

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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com, and followed on Facebook and Twitter.