COLUMBUS, Ohio -- They were freshmen then, caught up in the excitement on the Ohio State University campus surging behind Barack Obama, a presidential candidate they saw as young, inspiring and visionary.
Almost four years later, they're seniors caught in the grim realities of the economy -- on the hunt for jobs but accepting internships and temporary positions, or applying to graduate school to wait for employment to bounce back.
Obama had a number of reasons for visiting here Tuesday, making Columbus the second stop on his tour to push his $447 billion jobs bill: Ohio is a crucial swing state, House Speaker John Boehner's district is nearby and several aspects of Obama's jobs plan fit well with the region's needs.
But by virtue of the massive Ohio State campus, this also is one of the country's largest college towns and a place where Obama fever burned intensely three years ago. If he is to reverse his slide in the polls and again carry states like Ohio for his re-election, Obama needs to revive at least some of that energy.
"He needs to replicate 2008, with high turnout among minorities and the young," said Paul Beck, a political scientist at Ohio State. "Young voters are not nearly as enthused as in 2008, and they may not be by election time."
Interviews show he has a ways to go with Ohio's young voters, as they view politics through a different lens now. Some are less interested, others are considering the field of Republican candidates. Some have kept the faith in Obama and want to volunteer for him -- when their job-hunting schedules will allow.
"I'm not going to go out and advocate for anything," said Joshua Hayes, a senior in civil engineering who recalled that he was caught up in the Obama fervor as a freshman. "I have my own stuff going on," he added, ticking off a long weekly to-do list that includes going to class, studying and working at Bed, Bath and Beyond to help pay the bills.
The U.S. unemployment rate stood at 7.8 percent when Obama took office, but in Ohio it was 8.6 percent -- one of the highest rates in the country. National unemployment has since climbed to 9.1 percent, while Ohio's rate stands at 9 percent -- an improvement from fall 2009, when its rate peaked at 10.6 percent.
But even if the employment picture has improved, that doesn't mean it's good.
"Everyone's settling," said Brooke Wojdynski, a senior in non-profit studies and political science. "I don't want to settle. I need a job I want, not just something that's available."