But seeing a loss on a major priority now, while Democrats retain full control of the levers of power, is deeply disappointing to a chunk of the president's base. It reinforces perceptions among Democrats that even the president's seemingly firm stands wind up being quite malleable.
The compromises will help move some long-sought priorities, and -- most importantly in the current economy -- are likely to prevent a broad-scale tax increase from going into effect.
Yet to a president who is seeking to reassert his authority after a rough midterm election, the lame-duck session could prove counter to his longer-term goals. If he's forced to give on a position where he can claim the backing of the public -- taxes paid by upper-income earners -- he could wind up moving far more on issues where his opponents have the upper hand.