Under the leadership of President George W. Bush, science, empirical evidence and expert advice struggled to be heard above the din of politics. It's one thing to prioritize politics over good policy; it's quite another to let bad politics drive the agenda. But that's what the Bush administration did during its Terri Schiavo era and his congressional majorities paid the price.
Taking sensible policy positions during the campaign did the president a lot of good, and had the benefit of also being the right thing to do. If he fails to do the same thing now, he'll do his party significant political damage and the country even more significant economic damage. This article provides the most cogent analysis (from both political and policy perspectives) of the choice before him that I've seen yet.