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2009 Democratic agenda severely weakened by Republicans' united opposition

Neither Reid nor Pelosi has won over the general public, and one 2010 wild card is whether Reid's commitment to the Obama agenda will waver as he faces what could prove to be his toughest reelection campaign yet.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll this month found 40 percent of respondents approving of Pelosi's job performance, and 48 percent disapproving. Just 35 percent approve of Reid's performance while 47 percent disapprove.

Divisions among Dems

For dozens of hours over five days this month, Obama, Pelosi and Reid shuttered themselves inside White House with other top lawmakers and aides to try and reach a final deal on health care.

Brown's victory in Massachusetts crushed those hopes. The potential collapse of health care has exposed deep divisions among Democrats in recent days, as party leaders and the White House contemplate their next move. But when it became clear last week the House would not pass the Senate version, some Democrats began wondering if it was time to move on.

For months, lawmakers have quietly fumed that health care has eclipsed the economic concerns that remain foremost among their constituents. Their concerns were validated in Massachusetts, where polls showed Brown voters opposed the health-care bill and were alarmed about the economy.

House Democrats were the first to warn that the stimulus bill signed into law in February may not be enough to stem rising unemployment. On March 30, just before the House approved Obama's first budget on a party-line vote, the president made what would be his last appearance before either Democratic caucus until the health-care debate in the fall.

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), one of the few liberals to vote against the $787 billion stimulus plan because he wanted more infrastructure spending, reiterated his plea for additional funding. He was cut off.

"I know you think we need more for that, because you voted against it. Don't think we're not keeping score, brother," Obama replied, according to a person in the room. The lawmakers broke into laughter.

But the White House opposed House efforts to advance a new, massive job-creating transportation bill in the summer. By September, fearing the economy was not turning around fast enough, Pelosi began expressing concerns to Obama in their private discussions. She convened a panel of economists and ordered her committee chairmen to begin compiling what would become a $154 billion stimulus proposal approved by the House before Christmas.

Before the Massachusetts loss, the White House officials touted 2009 as the most productive legislative year in decades. Prodded before Tuesday's election whether Obama and his team would change anything about its Hill strategy, Axelrod replied, "I've thought about that and I don't see how."

Lawmakers expect Obama to set a course for 2010 on Wednesday, in his State of the Union speech. Democrats want the focus on one issue: jobs. But on Friday in Ohio, given a few days to digest Brown's upset, Obama defended and promoted the same long to-do list he brought with him to office.

"I didn't run for president to turn away from these challenges," he said. "I didn't run for president to kick them down the road. I ran for president to confront them -- once and for all."


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