"You know, there is an inherent danger in being in the White House," Mr. Obama said in response to the final questions during his post-election press conference Wednesday.
"And being in the bubble. I mean, folks didn't have any complaints about my leadership style when I was running around Iowa for a year. And they got a pretty good look at me up close and personal. And they were able to lift the hood and kick the tires, and I think they understood that my story was theirs. I might have a funny name. I might have lived in some different places. But the values of hard work and responsibility and honesty and looking out for one another that had been instilled in them by their parents, those are the same values that I took from my mom and my grandparents."
It was a chastened, more contemplative president, battered by what he called aas the GOP took back the House and captured at least six senate seats, confessing to the difficult challenges of the office.
"...the responsibilites of this office are so enormous and so many people are depending on what we do, and in the rush of activity, sometimes we lose track of the ways that we connected with folks that got us here in the first place. And that's something that -- now, I'm not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like i did last night. You know, I'm sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons. But I do think that this is a growth process," he said.
He talked about the challenge of meeting his White House responsibilities--running the country and dealing with serial "emergencies"--and engaging on a day-to-day basis with the American people, and giving them the confidence that he is listening and understands their concerns.
"You know, those letters that I read every night, some of them just break my heart. Some of them provide me encouragement and inspiration," Mr. Obama confessed. "But nobody is filming me reading those letters. And so it's hard I think for people to get a sense of, well, how is he taking in all this information. And so it's hard I think for people to get a sense of, well, how is he taking in all this information. So I think there are more things that we can do to make sure that I'm getting out of here."
He didn't sound very convinced that he would be able to free up much more time, beyond the campaign trail, to mix it up with the American people. On Friday, Mr. Obama leaves on a trip to India, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia for ten days.
He noted that previous presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, received a similar "shellacking" and questions from reporters two years into their presidencies. But only one of them went on to win a second term.
Mr. Obama concluded his answer to the final question on an upbeat note. "... during the course of the last two years, as tough as it's been, as many sometimes scary moments as we've gone through, I've never doubted that we're going to emerge stronger than we were before. And I think that remains true, and I'm just going to be looking forward to playing my part in helping that journey along."
Whether Mr. Obama and his administration emerge strong enough from the midterm Republican sweep and over the next to years to prevail in the 2012 race remains to be seen.