The book makes no significant mention of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who chose Ryan to be his running mate more than a year after the main events in the book transpired. The 2012 election is not a major focus of the book, beyond the president's repeated insistence that any debt deal cover spending and borrowing through his reelection year.
Woodward portrays a president who remained a supreme believer in his own powers of persuasion, even as he faltered in efforts to coax congressional leaders in both parties toward compromise. Boehner told Woodward that at one point, when Boehner voiced concern about passing the deal they were working out, the president reached out and touched his forearm.
"John, I've got great confidence in my ability to sway the American people," Boehner quotes the president as having told him.
But after the breakthrough agreement fell apart, Boehner's "Plan B" would ultimately exclude the president from most of the key negotiations. The president was "voted off the island," in Woodward's phrase, even by members of his own party, as congressional leaders patched together an eleventh hour framework to avoid default.
Frustration over the lack of clear White House planning was voiced to Obama's face at one point, with a Democratic congressional staffer taking the extraordinary step of confronting the president in the Oval Office.
With the nation facing the very real possibility of defaulting on its debt for the first time in its history, David Krone, the chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, told the president directly that he couldn't simply reject the only option left to Congress.
"It is really disheartening that you, that this White House did not have a Plan B," Krone said, according to Woodward.
Congress reached a short-term deal to slice spending and extend the nation's debt ceiling through the election. But it also set up a mechanism that will lead to a "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and deep cuts to programs, including defense spending, at the end of this year, absent new congressional action. "It is a world of the status quo, only worse," Woodward concludes.