The issues confronting President Barack Obama over the coming weeks will test his powers of persuasion and his mobilizing skills more than at any other time in his presidency.
How well Obama handles the tasks could determine whether he leads the nation from a position of strength or whether he becomes a lame duck one year into his first term.
Between now and the end of October, Obama must persuade wary lawmakers to grant him authority to take military action against Syria. He also must engage Congress in an economy-rattling debate over spending and the nation's borrowing limit, and oversee a crucial step in putting his health care law in place.
The Syria vote looms as his first, biggest and perhaps most defining challenge.