During the fight over forced spending cuts he's made a clear effort to put faces on the impending changes. At one White House event, he got emotional as he stood in front of a group of first responders.
"And this is not an abstraction. There are people whose livelihoods are at stake. There are communities that are going to be impacted in a negative way," he said.
"And I know that sometimes all this squabbling in Washington seems very abstract, and in the abstract, people like the idea, there must be some spending we can cut, there must be some waste out there. There absolutely is. But this isn't the right way to do it."
Rewind back to four years ago in March 2009, the same president was confronted with a teacher about to lose her job. Instead of consoling her or expressing her concern, he asked if she got a "pink slip" and launched into his views on education policy.
These days he's doing better on the empathy test.
In a gun control plea at his recent State of the Union address the chamber rose to its feet as a fervent Obama reminded the country of recent tragedies.
"Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote," Obama said on the House floor.
"The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence, they deserve a simple vote."
That's the kind of emotional rallying cry he once saved for campaign style events outside the Beltway. No longer.
Even the president admits he has changed, in repeated humble brags.
"The fascinating thing about this job is the longer you're in it, the more humble you get and the more you recognize your own imperfections," he told House Democrats at their retreat in Virginia.
"The one thing about being president is after four years, you get pretty humble," Obama said Tuesday. "You think maybe you wouldn't but you become more humble. You realize what you don't know. You realize, you know, all the mistakes you make."
It's humility he can afford, after winning a second term.
"President Obama is never going to be the 'I feel your pain' Bill Clinton-type of president but he's getting closer," Maraniss said.