President Obama said Tuesday that he's been surprised by enthusiasm for White House hopefuls Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJill Stein looped into widening investigation of Russia and Trump Jr. connections Trump launches all-out assault on Mueller probe Sunday shows preview: Scaramucci makes TV debut as new communication chief MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersParliamentarian deals setback to GOP repeal bill OPINION | Hey Dems, Russia won't define 2018, so why not fix your party's problems instead? OPINION | They told us to abandon ObamaCare — then came the resistance MORE (I-Vt.).

“Well, look, there’s no doubt I would have been surprised,” Obama said when asked how he would have felt a year ago hearing about their standings the day of New Hampshire’s primary.

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“I always have to remind people that this is really early in the process,” Obama told host Gayle King in a prerecorded interview on “CBS This Morning” released Tuesday. "Early on, often times, voters want to just vent and vote their passions.

“As the process goes on and people see how they react, I think they recognize that this is a pretty serious job and you’ve got to make sure that the person who’s in the job is somebody who has the judgment to lead and not just to mouth slogans.”

Obama also reflected how eight years serving as the nation’s chief executive has changed him before he finishes his second term next November.

“My basic character is unchanged, and Michelle and close friends of mine who’ve known me for years would say, ‘he’s the same guy,’” Barack ObamaBarack ObamaTrump launches all-out assault on Mueller probe Immigration agents planning raids next week targeting teenage gang members Obama intel chief wonders if Trump is trying to make 'Russia great again' MORE, referring to the first lady. "There’s obviously some hard-won wisdom from overcoming challenges [and] figuring out really hard problems.

“Maybe this is just a function of age as well as having been around the track a while as president. You lose that fear. You lost that sense of, ‘oh, what if something goes wrong,’ because there are going to be things that go wrong.”

Barack Obama additionally revealed he considers meeting Pope Francis one of his most cherished memories as chief executive.

“You know, he is somebody who is the real deal,” he said, adding he keeps a pair of rosary beads from the Catholic leader in his pocket. "I think he cares deeply about people, about the most vulnerable."