Over his five years in the White House, President Obama has become a creature of Washington - a much-maligned condition he's compared to being caged in a zoo. But today, Obama's inner beast lashed out, pushing back against critics, cynics and the news media who say he's lost his touch.
"I'm super loose today," Obama declared before a friendly crowd in Minneapolis.
"If I've got one message today," he said later, noting that it's that life is a struggle for many Americans and "I know it."
Today was the first in a series of what the White House has dubbed "Day-in-the-Life" trips, during which Obama is meeting with ordinary citizens.
For over an hour, Obama took questions from a hand-picked audience of 350 Minnesotans, who probed broadly his views on climate change, gun violence, study-abroad programs, STEM education, minimum wage, and a pay hike for federal workers. At every turn, Obama hammered on his policy wish list, but offered little prospect for immediate solutions.
In a remarkable closing soliloquy, Obama distanced himself from the gridlock and partisanship in Washington, and appeared to acknowledge his diminishing second-term influence.
"I was you guys," he said. "Somebody out here is going through what my mom went through. Somebody out here is going through what my grandma went through. Somebody out here is going through what Michelle and I went through when we were first married and our kids were first born."
"It's not like I forget," he said.
"You guys are the reason I ran. You are who I'm thinking about every single day. And just because it's not reported in the news, I don't want you to think that I'm not fighting for you," said Obama. "And I'm not always going to get it done as fast as I want because right now we've got a Congress that's dysfunctional."
Obama ended with a play on his old campaign slogans: "Cynicism is, you know, popular these days, but hope's better," he said.