The Next 100 Days

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

Following the deluge of pollsters and pundits weighing in on President Obama’s first 100 days, the obvious follow-up question in this era of rapidly changing public perceptions is: what will the chattering class be saying on August 7th — Day 200 — about the Obama Administration?

Lee Miringoff

Lee Miringoff

The late Tim Russert used to point out that politics was simple: say you’re going to do it, do it, and say you’ve done it…everything else made politics too complicated.  Well, according to The Marist Poll’s national survey marking President Obama’s 100th day, and those conducted by many other national pollsters, President Obama has stolen the page right out of that political playbook.

So far, the American electorate rates its new president positively.  His Democratic base is sizeable, his appeal with independents provides him with important support from swing voters, and he attracts majority approval from every key electoral group with the exception of GOPers.  On key image questions, President Obama is a political consultant’s dream come true.  He is seen by 64% as a good leader for the nation, 67% think he cares about people like them, and 59% believe he shares their values.  Is he honest, trustworthy, and tough enough?  Voters think so.  Approximately two-thirds of the electorate think President Obama is fulfilling campaign promises.

With barely an exception, changes initiated by the Obama Administration are putting points on the national scoreboard from his handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to ordering the EPA to institute higher fuel efficiency standards, making it easier for workers to sue companies on pay discrimination, providing federal funding for stem cell research, and getting his economic stimulus package passed.

Although historians  would likely grade the first 100 days of President  Obama as “incomplete” and choose to wait for the remaining 1,361 days to clock in, not so for public opinion where 58% of the national electorate grade him, so far, with an “A” or “B.”  59% think he is moving the country in the right direction.

In the next 100 days, President Obama will be judged by improvements in the economy.  If he does nothing else but take away people’s fiscal worries, President Obama’s popularity on Day 200 will resemble Day 100.  If the economic recovery lags, all other accomplishments will pale and the Obama Administration will have to scramble to preserve his standing.

Right now, President Obama has political cover.  Four out of every five voters nationwide view the economic problems President Obama is tackling as mostly inherited, and there is the sense that the economy is beginning to turn around.  But, with unemployment nearing 10%, will this also be the time when the public places ownership for their economic woes on him?

There will be other tests.  President Obama pledges to make advances on health care and energy.  Daunting tasks.  When asked about this new administration, the political gamble of wading into many areas is evident.  The criticism, already at 56%, is that he is doing too much too soon.  This can grow.  The international situation is shaky and always unpredictable.

Still, when Marist asked voters to describe the word that best captures their emotions about President Obama’s first 100 days in office, the one most often mentioned is hopeful.  As it was for the last, this is the foundation for the next 100 days.