Saturday, April 25, 2009

As Nation's Mood Lifts, Can Obama Capitalize?

The most striking finding from the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll released today is the change in the public mood. Since Barack Obama was elected president in November, the pervasive gloom of 2008 has given way to a sense of hopefulness and considerably more optimism about the state of the country.

How much of this change is directly attributable to Obama's leadership rather than the nascent signs of improvement will become fodder for the cable shows as the president's 100th day arrives this week. What's important is that he now enjoys the power of public confidence. He will need all the backing he can muster as he moves into what is likely to be an even more difficult phase of his presidency.

Half the country now thinks things are moving in the right direction. That compares with 8 percent in October, during the election's final weeks. The shift in public sentiment sets Obama apart from many of his predecessors. It took Bill Clinton five years and a successful reelection campaign before Post-ABC News polls recorded a majority believing the country was on the right track. Other recent presidents have seen the mood turn sour before it improved.

No one should mistake the current mood for euphoria, given the state of the economy. But the poll shows an across-the-board boost in spirits. Among Democrats, 71 percent say the country is going in the right direction -- the first time since 1999 that figure has hit the 70 percent mark. Among independents, 44 percent are positive -- the highest since the fall of Baghdad in the spring of 2003. Republicans are far more pessimistic, with 27 percent saying the country is going in the right direction -- but that's still double what it was in February.......

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