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Obama health care woes become credibility fight he may not win

| Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, 7:39 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Throughout President Obama's first four years in office, he prided himself on his ability to bounce back when much of Washington thought his presidency was in peril.

But the political challenge posed by Obama's disastrous health care rollout is far greater than those he overcame during the nasty debt ceiling fight with Republicans, his stumbling campaign debate in 2012 or even the painful recession.

This time, the president is fighting to regain trust and credibility with the American people. Those are the same qualities that helped keep him afloat during those earlier battles.

“It's legitimate for them to expect me to have to win back some credibility on this health care law in particular and on a whole range of these issues in general,” Obama said during a news conference last week that turned into an extensive mea culpa for the health care failures consuming the White House.

As bad as things are for Obama, they may be worse for many members of Congress.

Democrats in both the House and Senate worry the health care problems could dim their re-election chances next year. The heath law woes have proved a lifeline since the GOP's much-criticized handling of the government shutdown.

With Republicans sensing an opportunity in Obama's free fall, the president is sure to struggle to get their support, particularly in the House, for White House priorities such as an immigration overhaul or broad budget deal.

Without success on other fronts to counteract the health care failures, Obama will have fewer chances to change the public's view that Washington, and the president himself, are ineffective.

Obama's advisers need only recall the Oval Office's last occupant to note the lasting damage that could be done if those numbers don't recover.

President George W. Bush's credibility and trust took a tumble as the public grew weary of the Iraq war and angry over the government's botched response to Hurricane Katrina. His presidency never recovered, and he left office with negative job and personal approval ratings.

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