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Editorial: The year of change is not what all thought

The year since President Barack Obama's inauguration has seen a sea of change -- although it not been the change that Obama supporters and opponents expected.

The difference of a year in political terms is more like a decade in human terms. In fact, it simply is a long time in which a lot of change did occur or not enough change to meet the extraordinary expectations.

On Jan. 20, 2009, Obama took the oath of office and many pundits considered his political direction nearly unstoppable. Democrats had pulled off a sweeping November victory, including winning the presidency, and Republicans were wondering how to rebuild their party.

One year later Wednesday, Republicans are celebrating a political upset in Massachusetts for the Senate seat previously held by Ted Kennedy and Democrats are wondering how they can salvage the current health care initiative.

What happens over the next 10 months before the 2010 election will be full of intrigue and political reaction, with both major political parties -- Democrat and Republican -- trying to find the path to political success.

The popularity of any president ebbs and flows. George W. Bush's popularity was near record highs early in his presidency and near record lows at the end of his administration.

Obama's approval rating has declined by nearly 20 points from a year ago, now at 56 percent approval in an AP-GfK Poll released Wednesday. No doubt, Obama's first year has been hammered by severe economic recession, an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, a harrowing health care initiative debate and in December another terror attack threat.

All have taken a toll on the Obama administration and its public perception. Yet the majority of citizens -- including three-quarters of Republicans-- still personally like Obama. The concern of many that Obama may in over his head has slowly tempered over the past year. If anything, his drive for changing too much too fast is a major concern for many Americans.

The president has been successful in other areas. The president responded directly in the terrorist bombing attempt in December after initially stumbling. He has moved with decisive action following the Haiti earthquake.

There are three years remaining in Obama's first term. That is a long time in political terms.

The next test for Obama's administration and the Democratic party will be the November election and its outcome. The same challenge is facing the Republican Party.