Fifty Days In, Obama Jury Still Out
By Ben Pershing
Today is the 50th day of Barack Obama's presidency -- halfway to the magic 100 -- and elite opinion is remarkably split on his tenure so far. Has he been transformational or conventional? Ambitious and broad, or scattered and unfocused? Is he an instinctive centrist forced by the economic crisis to propose historically huge programs, or is he really a "socialist" whose real goal is to engineer a permanent government expansion?
First, it's worth noting that public opinion remains strongly on Obama's side. Gallup pegs his job approval at 62 percent, within single digits of where he's been since Inauguration Day. (His disapproval has gone up more since Day 1, but remains relatively low at 25 percent.) And many of Obama's individual actions have been welcomed by voters, including his centerpiece $787 billion economic stimulus package, which inspired a mix of poll results but generally continues to be more popular than not. Obama's acting on the right side of the polls continued right up through yesterday, when his move to reverse President Bush's policy on stem cell research got the support of a (narrow) majority.
Outside the court of public opinion and inside the political class, the verdict is less clear. On the right, conservatives appear to have grown gradually more disappointed with Obama's actions, beginning with their united opposition to the stimulus package, moving through their scathing criticism of the president's budget and the omnibus spending bill, and continuing right up until yesterday's (completely predictable) move on stem cells. The unanswered question is whether Republicans really expected much different from a Democratic president, and whether they really anticipated more "bipartisanship" from Obama or are just seizing the tactical opportunity to turn his rhetoric against him.
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