It was a rough week in Washington for President Barack Obama. And he wasn't even there.
As the President attended the G20 summit in Russia, support in Congress cratered for his plan to launch punitive missile strikes at the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. If a vote were held today, Obama would likely face a big loss in the House. And passage in the Senate—required to even get the measure to the House—is also far from assured.
Congressional opposition has largely flowed from deep public disapproval of hitting Syria over Assad's use of chemical weapons. So at the end of the week, Obama took the only course left to him: he said would speak to the nation on Tuesday to lay out his case. It may turn out that Obama erred in not making a public case first before going to Congress for support.
If Obama cannot win votes in Congress for a Syria strike, he will almost certainly have to stand down. Launching an attack without public or Congressional support could destroy the president's political standing and turn the remaining years of his presidency into a nightmare.
But even if he backs off, Obama will still face a weakened hand when facing off with Republicans over funding the government and raising the debt ceiling later this fall. In addition to blowing up fiscal talks, a Syria strike could also have other unpredictable impacts on a U.S. economy otherwise showing some signs of strength.
(Read more DC Money Insider: Syria vote holds huge implications for Obama presidency)