Obama took second place to Putin in the Forbes power list for the second year in succession - the Russian leader being judged to have a far freer hand than his US counterpart.
"So, who's more powerful: the omnipotent head of (a) corroding but still feisty power or the handcuffed head of the most dominant country in the world?" Forbes asked. News of the ranking came on the same day that Obama and his supporters had to digest a drubbing in mid-term congressional elections that saw the president's Democratic Party lose control of the US Senate.
Forbes said Obama had seemed "stymied" by the Ebola outbreak and the threat of the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS). "He has the power but has been too cautious to fully exercise it," the magazine said.
Third place went to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who - given his decade-long tenure and China's rising place in the world - may well top the list once again. The Chinese leader was also in third place last year.
Indeed, all five top spots remained unchanged. Forbes kept faith with Pope Francis' claim to fourth place, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel clung on stubbornly to fifth.
There were 12 newcomers. Among them were new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in spot 15, Alibaba founder and China's richest man Jack Ma in 30th, and self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ranked 54.
A total of 26 people on the New York magazine's list came from the US, while the Asia Pacific claimed 19 of the places. There were 17 heads of state and 39 company CEOs and chairs.
There were nine women in the list of 72, but it was the first time that two made the top ten - US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen climbing up just below Merkel to sixth.
At the tender age of 30, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was the youngest person to feature, ranked at number 22.
rc/msh (dpa, AFP)