And then it ran aground like a boat getting stuck in the mud.
For Carter, there were all kinds of things that seemed to knock his Administration offstride, from Bert Lance's troubles to what would later become a split with Congressional leaders in the Congress on a variety of issues.
Both of those Administrations - like most - sometimes try to do too much after they get elected. They try to enact too many new reforms, too many new executive orders, too many new policy directives.
Barack Obama's Administration will try the same thing, I'm sure.
But one thing that may sort of weigh him down and slow the work of his administration in all those other fields is the overwhelming need to get the economy back on track.
Stem cell research is great, but the issue sort of loses its relevancy if the economy is grinding to a complete halt.
Moving to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detainee facility might be a great political move for Democrats, but it doesn't help the auto worker in Ohio and Michigan find a new job.
Obama might want to do something on health care like President Clinton, but health care isn't the driving issue for those who would like to earn a paycheck in the first place.
How Obama deals with the economy and all of the related workings of the markets will define the early time of his presidency.
If he picks former Rep. David Bonior as Labor Secretary, he will have someone from automobile country who will be consumed with trying to help spur new economic growth.
"It's the economy, stupid" was the great mantra of Bill Clinton's chief strategist James Carville.
Unfortunately, after Clinton won, he spent more time battling over gays in the military in the days after his election than he did looking for ways to deal with the economy.
His honeymoon was over before he was inaugurated. And his initial stimulus package went down to defeat in the US Senate in April of 1993, loaded down with pork barrel projects that even Democrats couldn't fully stomach.
The main goal for Mr. Obama right now is not to get distracted by issues that aren't solely about the economy.
What Obama may not realize is that the economy could take up so much of his time, that there won't be much oxygen left for anything else. We'll see.