Barack Obama is wrapping up his first year as president on the verge of finalizing a massive health care reform bill, but he's also faced setbacks, including the economic crisis and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, MPR News asked some of the same people who voted for Obama in 2008 how they think the president has performed in his first year in office.
Rose McGee, like many African-Americans, was ecstatic on election night in 2008 when Obama won the election, and she says she's as happy with the president now as she was with him then.
Gallup polling indicate she's not alone. Ninety percent of African-Americans support the president -- that's the same level of support Obama enjoyed among blacks just after the inauguration. In contrast, according to Gallup just 42 percent of whites support Obama, down more than 20 points from February.
McGee is absolutely convinced Obama has a much closer connection to mainstream America than did the Bush White House--partly because she's felt the effect of one of his new policies.
"I was really struggling with my own mortgage. I just thought 'I'm going to lose my house. It's going to go.' And I was very pleased when my mortgage company finally started working with me, but it was because of President Obama's plan," she said.
Candidate Obama vs. President Obama
On election night in Chicago, Obama talked about problems facing the nation from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the financial crisis, and problems with the cost of health care and global warming. Obama did not undersell the challenge.
"The road ahead will be long," Obama said in 2008. "Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you we as a people will get there."
Early in Obama's campaign, MPR News brought together a group of DFL activists to talk about what they wanted to see in a new president.
There was a lot of hopeful talk about Obama's tone and leadership skills.
"What I want to see Obama do is restore the place of honor of the United States in the world," Jim Johnson said at the time. "At the core of that issue is how we deal with this ungodly mess in Iraq and is still active in Afghanistan and squirted out into Pakistan. The next president has to unravel that knot."
Nearly two years later, Johnson said the U.S. has regained its standing in the eyes of the world.
"It's just a world of difference," he said. I mean we were almost like a pariah state. And now, well I mean the Nobel Peace Prize -- that wasn't as much given to Barack Obama as for the American people."
Larry Koenck, another DFL activist, agrees.
"I am very pleased with what he's done as far as foreign relations are concerned," he said.
However, Koenck said Obama's handling of domestic issues concerns him, and most of the others agree. They are disappointed with some of the president's efforts to reach across the aisle.
Vicki Wright said she's disappointed with Obama's health care efforts.
"I think it's very hard to be patient," she said. "I'm trying to be patient, but I'm really concerned about the whole health care issue. We've got to have a really good bill and it's got to have a public option."
Overall, the group of DFL activists is delighted Obama is president. They want him to succeed, but they do not want him to back down. Most agree the change he promised isn't coming fast enough.
Terry Davis said he's tired of waiting.
"There's more negotiating coming from the middle," Davis said. "It seems to me, you start at the high end and you're willing to negotiate down. I think Obama negotiated from the middle. And I think that's coming from a position of -- not as strong as of position as we could have been."
On the economy, there's consensus among these Democrats that Obama's stimulus package helped and there's agreement the worst of the bad economic times are over.
On the issue of war, no one at the table criticized Obama's plan to withdraw troops from Iraq and significantly boost the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
"I think the president is doing exactly what he said he was going to do in Afghanistan," Jim Johnson said.
Wright was not as confident.
"I am willing to sort of hold my breath and hope it works," she said.
A Republican's opinion
Mike Spack, a self-employed traffic engineer from St. Louis Park, is a Republican who voted for Obama.
"I was ready for change," Spack said. "I was tired of the Bush presidency and wasn't sure John McCain would change much from the policies of the Bush era."
But like some of the Democrats, Spack is frustrated that Obama is allowing himself to be bogged down with Congress.
"I'd like him to come in and say 'here is my strong position' [and] push for that instead of letting it get garbled up in the legislative process," he said.
For now, one year into Obama's term, Spack said he will give the president the benefit of the doubt.
Pollster.com, a Web site that compiles political polls, reported that Obama has lost significant ground among independents. When he took office, 65 percent approved of his job performance. Now, that number stands just above 40 percent.
Nearly two-thirds of Minnesotans approved of Obama's job performance in late January, but now Minnesotans are essentially evenly split on Obama. Just 51 percent said they approve of his job performance.
Washington University Political Science Professor Steven Smith said the problems Obama inherited, including the financial and economic crisis and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have hurt him with voters.
"All of those things distracted him and surely have contributed to the fact that his job approval ratings have suffered considerably," he said.
Still, Smith said Obama has had a very successful first year. Smith said among the president's accomplishments outside of crisis management, were executive actions to ban torture and to reverse Bush administration policies restricting stem cell research.
Smith also said careful deal making, not endless rallies and speeches, has Obama poised to sign historic health care legislation early in his second year. "To create a federal program of that size will by any measure be a tremendous legislative accomplishment," Smith said. "Most historians would say that if you did that and nothing else 50 years from now this would still be recognized as a major legislative development."
But voters will weigh in on Obama and the Democratic agenda on a much shorter time scale. The midterm elections are months, not years, away and midterm elections often end up being referendums on presidents and their parties.