In the White House, the wistfulness for the simpler days is palpable. "The day was just suffused with emotion and hope and warmth," David Axelrod, Mr. Obama's senior adviser, recalled about Election Day last year. "But it is an emotional peak that you can't maintain day to day as you do the business of government. The challenge is to maintain that degree of idealism and optimism as you work through the meat grinder.
"Everything about the politics of Washington works against hope and optimism and unity. So you have to push against that every day, understanding that it's going to be an imperfect end result." He added: "That night was sublime. And much of what goes on in Washington is prosaic. Or profane."