George C. Edwards III, a presidential scholar and political scientist at Texas A&M University, studied hundreds of polls on presidents and concluded that even the most accomplished orators usually failed to win public support for their top initiatives.
Despite Reagan's opposition to spending on social programs, for instance, public support for them rose during his tenure. Still, Reagan persuaded Democrats to pass his bills to cut taxes in 1981 and 1986, which some see as clear evidence that his skillful public diplomacy had an effect on his negotiations with Congress.
"Ronald Reagan was the great communicator because he was very powerful in selling ideas that people thought were crazy," Lichtman said. "Who would have thought an across-the-board tax cut would be adopted when it was? It was the persuasiveness of Ronald Reagan, talking about getting the government off your back."
With Obama, though, his opponents do not seem worried about the effect of his words, however eloquently delivered.
"I think that his biggest problem is that every time he speaks it doesn't have any real impact on Republicans," said John Feehery, a GOP strategist and former legislative aide. "They almost ignore him. He speaks in such a way it actually revs up the Republican base to be more opposed to him, especially in red districts and red states."
Still, some influential Republicans want to cut a deal on immigration policy, swayed not by Obama's rhetoric but by the realization that the party's return to the White House would require more Latino support.
In the battle to win public opinion, Obama has an enormous advantage beyond the bully pulpit of the White House: He is the main spokesman for his causes. Republicans have no such single voice, but a multitude of prominent, and in some cases divisive, figures, such as Wayne LaPierre, the fiery executive vice president of the National Rifle Assn.
But Obama's primacy comes at a price. Selling three major agenda items at once is no small task.
Advisors to the president are trying to keep the messages from muddling together.
As they try to fire up campaign supporters, for instance, they are aiming messages on different issues at the people likely to care the most.
They also think the president's broader message — that Americans want the two political parties to work together to solve the nation's problems — has wide appeal.
Jay Carney, the president's press secretary, tried to explain recently how this approach will work: "I think they would welcome a circumstance in which Washington was more collaborative and cooperative and productive, where we were able to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform, even as we deal with our fiscal challenges, where we were able to address the horrible scourge of gun violence in this country by moving on proposals that are very common-sense and not one of which would take away a gun from a single law-abiding American."
That's a lot to say in one sentence.