Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Monday he would continue pushing for major changes on tough issues such as health care and energy reform, even if it endangered his chances for re-election in 2012.
"I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president," Obama said in an interview with ABC's "World News" program. A transcript of the interview was posted on the ABC News Web site.
Obama will deliver his first State of the Union address on Wednesday night, just over a year after he took office. His popularity ratings have dropped in a first year dominated by the economic recession, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the push by Democrats to pass a major health care bill.
The president made health care his top domestic priority for 2009, but now is shifting his focus to job creation and other efforts to spur economic recovery and benefit middle-class Americans.
Obama said in the interview that tackling the nation's biggest problems remains his focus.
"What we have to have is a foundation that's built on a good education system, a sound energy policy, a health care system that works for everybody, financial regulations that ensure we don't have this crisis again, and those foundations for long-term economic growth are going to be my focus this year," Obama said. "They're going to be my focus next year. They're going to be my focus the year after that because if we don't get that stuff right, then it's going to be very difficult for us to answer the anxieties that people feel over the long-term."
The president acknowledged that he made a "legitimate mistake" in his first year in office by "worrying more about getting the policy right than getting the process right."
"But I had campaigned on process," Obama said. "Part of what I had campaigned on was changing how Washington works, opening up transparency."
He noted that the health care debate generated anger and frustration over how Congress crafts and passes major bills, which he called an "ugly process" that "looks like there are a bunch of backroom deals."
"Now I think it's my responsibility, and I'll be speaking to this at the State of the Union, to own up to the fact that the process didn't run the way I ideally would like it to and that we have to move forward in a way that recaptures that sense of opening things up more," Obama said.
The bottom line is to do what's best for the country, the president said.
"You know, there is a tendency in Washington to believe our job description, of elected officials, is to get re-elected. That's not our job description," Obama said. "Our job description is to solve problems and to help people."
The president added: "I don't want to look back on my time here and say to myself all I was interested in was nurturing my own popularity."
Democratic hopes for passing a health care bill were dampened last week when Republican Scott Brown won a special election in Massachusetts to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy.
Brown's victory cost Democrats their 60-seat super-majority in the 100-member Senate necessary to overcome a filibuster. Brown campaigned against the health care bill and has said he would oppose it.