Barack Obama, the US president, can hardly campaign on being the candidate of change this time around, but as his term comes to a close, he still appears to be honing his campaign message as he seeks re-election.

It is not just Republicans making the case that Obama needs to be challenged on his record - even some within his own party seem unconvinced by what they have seen during his first term.

Many on the left say the president appears too weak, too friendly and has positioned himself too far towards the Republicans - becoming a caricature of his predecessors, one too eager to give in to their demands.

One critic has branded his presidential style as being the perfect party follower as opposed to the perfect leader - courting Wall Street and large corporations when he should be limiting their influence on the White House's agenda.

On issues ranging from his healthcare bill to Israel and the still-operational Guantanamo Bay, Obama has been accused of not standing his ground.

He has been challenged for fulfilling his election promise in pulling troops out of Afghanistan, his critics insisting that "the war against the Taliban is unfinished and the pull out gave the enemy the upper hand".

And all the candidates say Obama has not been vocal enough in his support for Israel. Mitt Romney has gone so far as to say he has "thrown Israel under a bus".

And having been elected amidst a melting economy, he has also been criticised for not being tough enough on Wall Street, with former financial executives continuing to play key roles in his cabinet.

Last year there were calls for him to face a primary challenger of his own - not to unseat Obama as candidate but to re-energise the Democratic Party, and ensure, if re-elected, the president knows he cannot simply return to business as usual.

So, after a bruising Republican primary season, there is a fierce debate underway about what the party stands for - but after a less than stellar run in the White House, should the Democrats not be asking the same question?

Joining Inside Story US 2012 to discuss the road to the White House are: Brendan Daly, the one-time communications director for former House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi; Lynn Sweet, the Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun Times and from New York, John R MacArthur, the publisher of Harper's Magazine.

In a speech this past December, Obama channelled a former Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, to explain, what he says, is his fiscal thinking:

"Roosevelt also knew that the free market has never been a free licence to take whatever you can from whomever you can. He understood the free market only works when there are rules of the road that ensure competition is fair and open and honest.

"And so he busted up monopolies, forcing those companies to compete for consumers with better services and better prices. And today, they still must. He fought to make sure businesses couldn't profit by exploiting children or selling food or medicine that wasn't safe. And today, they still can't."

Source: Al Jazeera