President Obama said Tuesday that he's been surprised by enthusiasm for White House hopefuls Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Ann Coulter blasts Trump shutdown compromise: ‘We voted for Trump and got Jeb!’ MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) Sanders2020 Democrats barnstorm the country for MLK weekend Bill Maher defends Bernie Sanders campaign over sexual harassment allegations Americans need an economy that supports more than the 1 percent 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 Hussein ObamaAmericans need an economy that supports more than the 1 percent Pompeo’s retreat into chaos Barack Obama wishes Michelle a happy birthday: 'You’re one of a kind' 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."