8 a.m. ET: On the 98th day of President Obama's term, it looked as though the swine flu crisis might just overshadow today's milestone. On the 99th day, Arlen Specter delivered himself, wrapped in a bow, to the White House doorstep.
So it has gone for Obama, who has tackled one crisis after another -- only a few of his own making -- but stands, on his 100th day, as a popular president with the political wind still at his back. The media air is thick this morning with assessments of the Obama era so far, and nearly all are positive.
The New York Times editorializes that Obama has made "a strong start" to an administration that has dealt with much adversity. The Fix says the first 100 days are "without question" a success. Rich Lowry agrees that Obama's administration would be a success if it ended today, but suspects the thousand-plus days ahead will be more difficult. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll "finds that the president himself is more popular than his policies." Noting the sheer volume of action emanating from the White House, the Economist dubs it "100 days of hyperactivity."
For all the attention lavished on Specter's switch, the substantive difference may not be huge. Specter says he won't change how he votes, now he can exasperate Democratic leaders instead of GOP ones, and Democrats had a good shot at winning the Pennsylvania seat anyway. But his decision does help advance a preexisting narrative: the GOP is shrinking, and can't catch a break.
Olympia Snowe, one of just three Republican Senators left in the Northeast, writes that "it didn’t have to be this way" and complains that "there is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and continuing to retract into a regional party." Bill Kristol takes the counterintuitive view, arguing that Specter's move might be good for the GOP in the long term because, with 60 votes in the Senate, Obama will now be "responsible for everything" and this an easier foil for Republican candidates in 2010.
The brief buoyancy of the Specter switch doesn't change the fact that Obama faces a growing swine flu crisis. The news came this morning of the first confirmed American death from the virus. And it looks likely to take months for a vaccine to be ready, meaning that this will be a long-term challenge that is expected to get worse before it gets better.
Michelle Bachmann, for example, thinks it's "interesting" that the swine flu outbreak is occurring under a Democratic president. The Rundown thinks Bachmann is an "interesting" lawmaker to cover, and hopes she just keeps talking.
April 29, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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