One year after Barack Obama became president in Grant Park, what's changed with 'Change'?

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A year ago tonight, hundreds of thousands of Barack Obama supporters filed into Grant Park in Chicago to see the junior senator from Illinois become the first black President of the United States in a landslide win against Sen. John McCain.

11- 4 Stewart Grant Park 13.JPGThe euphoria, right, from Nov. 4, 2008 in Grant Park has died down considerably in the last year. (Scott Stewart~Sun-Times)

It was the culmination in an often bitter two-year fight for a candidate many people knew little about. Supporters in Grant Park - and throughout the country - turned out to mark the historic moment with spontaneous celebrations and joyful exuberance. Even many of Obama's fiercest critics admitted it was an exciting moment in American history as the country took one more step toward closing the race gap.

But glory, as it so often is, was fleeting following the 2008 presidential election. Like the new car, the value begins to plummet and the shine to fade the moment it's driven off the dealership lot. No longer is it enough to win the campaign - now the results must come. And come quickly.

Particularly true in a country decimated by two long wars, an economy in tatters, a broken health care system and myriad other dilemmas that, taken one-by-one, would be a daunting task for a new president. So once the dancing stopped and the reality struck, the Obama team stepped into a leadership role nearly from day 1, far sooner than any presidential transition in history.

As many recent polls and coverage show, many of those same fans won through an energetic and hopeful campaign now wonder if Obama is still their President. The New York Times took off to Iowa to ask the people who made Obama a surprising front-runner what they thought now:

Pauline McAreavy voted for President Obama. From the moment she first saw him two years ago, she was smitten by his speeches and sold on his promise of change. She switched parties to support him in the Iowa caucuses, donated money and opened her home to a pair of young campaign workers.

"Until I see some progress and he lives up to his promises in Iowa, we will not give one penny. I'm afraid I wasn't realistic," Ms. McAreavy, 76, a retired school nurse, said on a recent morning on the deck of her home here in east-central Iowa. "I really thought there would be immediate change," she said. "Sometimes the Republicans are just as bad as Democrats. But it's politics as usual, and that's what I voted against."

And as decisions on the war in Afghanistan continue to drag on and the national health care debate spins, job approval is on the decline among the President's base, according to poll numbers from Zogby:

Our latest Zogby Interactive poll of 4,518 likely voters (conducted from Aug. 28-31) found 48% disapprove of Obama's job performance, and 42% approve. The big story lies behind those top-line percentages. In a similar interactive poll done six weeks ago, 88% of Democrats approved of Obama's job performance. That percentage is now down to 75%, a significant drop of 13 points. Meanwhile, there is only slight change among Republicans and Independents.

The Times also looks at the reality of the situation for Obama, riding high out of Grant park only to be hit in the face by the daily pounding of governance:

"The central question that emerges after these months is can he make it all work?" said Lee H. Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman who in recent years helped lead commissions on the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the Iraq war. "These problems look simpler when you're talking to an audience like that" in Grant Park in Chicago, Mr. Hamilton said. "But they're much harder than that. I think he's learned that governing is harder than campaigning, and I think he's learned it with a vengeance."

mrpresident.jpgIt's a sentiment - where "Hope" runs smack into the Hell of Washington - Dee Dee Myers echoes in her Vanity Fair post that points to "Obama's First Year: Audacity Meets Reality":

Some of Obama's supporters are deflated by the gap between what they hoped for and what has happened. Others defend the president, saying, "Who knew it would be so hard?" Well, actually, who didn't? I don't consider myself a cynic, even after more than a decade in Washington. But as James Carville recently observed, Washington always wins.

Of course, you'll also find the usual chorus charging Obama with lying and breaking his campaign promise. It's a game that plays out after every election when every politician suddenly realizes that all that stuff they say they're gonna do sure is a lot harder to, you know, actually get done. Bloggers like Hans Bader at openmarket.org take a less-than charitable view of how the promise parade has played out so far.

And then there's this interactive report, again from The Times, that breaks down how President Obama has fared dealing with the issues, as they put it, that defined his candidacy. Here's a look at how they see him tackling everything from terrorism to energy to social issues.

All that's well and good. But Obama enjoyed a HUGE advantage in the strength of an active following of voters - from minorites to the youth movement to first-time voters, etc. - that came out in force on the promise of "Change." Have those eager new members of the American political process already become jaded to their guy? Lost governorships in New Jersey and Virgina on the first election since his triumphant day in 2008 would seem to be a troubling sign about his coattails if nothing else.

But have the masses lost their faith in "Change?" What do you think?:

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    This page contains a single entry by Craig Newman published on November 4, 2009 2:08 PM.

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