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On Campaign Promises Report Card, Obama Did 'Pretty Well'

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PolitiFact has been keeping a list — a very long list — on the president's first term.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning political watchdog assesses the veracity of political claims, and this week, it released a report card on the promises Obama made during his first presidential campaign.

PolitiFact deputy editor Angie Holan tells weekends on All Things Considered host Jacki Lyden the results are mixed, but on the whole he did pretty well: Some 47 percent of promises were kept — good by politician standards — and only 23 percent were rated as broken.

"Another 26 percent he made partial progress on, we rate those promises as a compromise," Holan said.

A boon to Obama's promise-keeping came from the passage of big-name programs like the economic stimulus package and the education program Race to the Top.

"[Race to the Top, which] set up states in competition for federal money, ended up prompting states to do all kinds of things to meet goals that Obama said he wanted to meet," Holan said. "And these are things like getting more teachers into the classroom, getting kids interested in math and science, a lot of technology-related promises."

Of course, there were some big presidential flops over the last four years, too. Promises to close Guantanamo Bay, for example, didn't really work out.

"We rate promises just based on fulfillment, which our readers sometimes don't like," Nolan says. "But if he tried really hard and it didn't happen, we gave it a promise broken."

What definitely did not make it into the "promises kept" column was Obama's promise to bring a new bipartisan tone to Washington.

In 2010, House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell famously announced that the top priority for congressional Republicans was to make Obama a one-term president.

The president has been snappy himself at times. Just last week, he accused Republicans of holding "a gun to the head of the American people" for trying to tie the debt limit debate to a referendum on the deficit.

In some instances, keeping his campaign promises actually made the bipartisan divide worse, Holan says.

"The [Affordable Care Act] got him a lot of "promise kepts" on our meter, but that may also have contributed to Republicans who didn't want to work with him," Holan says. "So I think there might be a tension there between bipartisan compromise and trying to pursue a legislative agenda."

Holan says PolitiFact is preparing to add some new promises from the 2012 campaign and will keep following his 2008 promises for the next four years to see if any of them switch columns.

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