WASHINGTON -- As the vacationing President Barack Obama approaches his second term, he'll have to confront tough and shifting challenges that will play big roles in shaping the rest of his presidency and his eventual place in history.
Obama will have to decide where to be ambitious, where to be cautious, and where to buy time.
He draws political strength from his surprisingly easy re-election in a bad economy. It's partly offset, however, by Republicans' continued control of the House, plus their filibuster powers in the Senate.
Some of the issues awaiting the president's decisions are familiar, long-simmering problems. They include immigration and the need for a tenable balance between taxes, spending and borrowing. Avoiding the fiscal cliff tops his to-do list when he returns from his brief Christmas holiday in Hawaii.
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