Obama's domestic political powers are unlikely to grow in his second term, assuming he gets one. Except for the rare chance that he wins a landslide re-election with long coattails that bring in a raft of new congressional allies, odds are that he'll have to continue dealing with at least one chamber of Congress that's Republican. So, the message to Obama's critics on the left who believe he's weak might be: this is as good as it gets unless you can mobilize more of the public behind a progressive agenda.
Historical odds are against Democrats holding their 53 to 47 majority in the US Senate since far more Democratic seats are up for re-election. They'll be defending 23 seats, while Republicans will be defending only 10 seats.
Historical odds are also against Democrats regaining 25 seats in the US House to retake the majority. The largest seat gain in the House since 1952 when the president's party did not control the House was 21 seats.
The only Republican incumbents in the Senate who look vulnerable at this point are Scott Brown in Massachusetts (expected to be challenged by Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren), and Dean Heller of Nevada, who was appointed to fill out the term of John Ensign, who resigned in 2011. Heller is expected to be challenged by Shelley Berkley. Arizona Senator John Kyl is retiring, and some Democrats hope Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will run for the seat, assuming she has a complete recovery from a gunshot wound to the head, which seems unlikely.
Even if the Democrats won all three GOP Senate seats, they'd still have to sweep 20 out of 23 Senate seats they will be defending, just to maintain their 53 seats. LONG ODDS. There's NO CHANCE of regaining the filibuster-proof majority they had briefly, for about 14 weeks, in 2009.
In the House, Democrats can only dream of a Republican presidential nominee who is such a disaster that he takes the GOP House down with him. That would have to be a repeat of the Lyndon Johnson landslide against Barry Goldwater in 1964.
A landslide for Obama may seem highly unlikely now, given that unemployment is still relatively high and the economy probably won't reach pre-2008 growth levels before the 2012 election. But Obama can take comfort that Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan were not especially popular presidents before they won historic landslides. Overwhelming presidential election victories often depend largely on who your opponent is, how well organized, consistent and broadly popular the opposition is, and whether the opposition party can create a viable, alternative vision for the future.