In 2008, Obama had a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate. By 2010, he had lost the House and several Senate seats. His Affordable Healthcare Act was a watered down version that appeased the right and barely kept his promise to do . . . . something.
Of course, he faced the specter of re-election, too.
So now he's won re-election and can govern as a lame duck, maybe pushing through some more progressive legislation, but he has to do it with a House that is still GOP and even more stubborn than ever. And he has to contend with the 2014 elections, too, which could shift the balance in the House back to the Dems or the Senate back to the GOP or leave everything as is.
I think you're looking at things much too simply and not taking into consideration all the various major factors that impact any of these decisions, to say nothing of the innumerable smaller factors. To many of us who are regulars in the Economy group, Mr. Obama did not demonstrate in his first term that he was as good a president as he had been a candidate. We watched all the GOP obstructionist tactics and we waited for the president to take command of the situation and LEAD.