…Mr. Obama sought to cast himself as post-partisan and pragmatic during his presidential campaign. But in office, he has been largely defined by his efforts to expand the government’s reach into the economy, health care and financial regulation — an agenda that has left him vulnerable to efforts by conservatives to portray him as far too left for the country.

Mr. Kessler said he did not think “the die is completely cast” for Mr. Obama. But Republicans like Tony Fratto, a former deputy press secretary to President George W. Bush, disagreed. Mr. Obama, Mr. Fratto said, has “already set his course” and “can’t help showing his real stripes.”

Even supporters of Mr. Obama say it will take more than one tax deal to change perceptions about the president that have become ingrained in the public mind.

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