As President Obama's standing among voters slumped last fall, the president and his aides decided it was time for a course correction.
Polls suggested that many people who had voted for Obama now thought the president was spending too much time on health care and foreign policy instead of on the public's top priority: fixing the economy.
So White House strategist David Axelrod and others proposed what they called "a hard pivot" - a sudden, dramatic change in the president's public profile. Beginning in December, they decided, Obama would focus much more intently on creating new jobs, curbing the federal deficit and imposing tougher regulations on Wall Street, where bankers were about to collect big bonuses only months after receiving a huge federal bailout.
But the pivot didn't happen fast enough. Obama had other pressing things to deal with in December - like selling his plan for Afghanistan and laboring to win Senate passage of his long-delayed health care bill - and that meant he couldn't focus solely on the economy.
The slow-motion pivot, which is still under way, was not enough to save the Senate seat in Massachusetts that Republican candidate Scott Brown won Tuesday - or to prevent the near-panic that swept through Democratic ranks on Wednesday.
Now Obama and his aides will have to complete their course correction against new and stiffer head winds, which will make the maneuver even more difficult.
"If there's one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are," Obama said Wednesday in an unusually self-critical interview with ABC News.
A nonpartisan pollster, Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center, said that Obama still had plenty of time to revive his popularity in time for the 2012 presidential election, especially if the economy continued to recover.
"This has not been the end of the world for Obama's personal-approval ratings," he said. "More people still say he has made the economy better than say he's made it worse."