What Matters--and What Doesn’t
It’s important to keep in mind what matters and what doesn’t in terms of the public’s judgment of Obama. Judd Gregg, party-line votes in Congress, broken lobbyist rules, a ramshackle and ugly legislative process–all of that stuff ultimately isn’t very important. The verdict on Obama will depend on his perceived performance on the economy. The surge in support for him after the election was based on a hunger for him to deal with the financial crisis and the declining economy, and if he is seen to do so, he’s going to be in a very strong position. The question for Obama in 2010 and 2012 will be whether he can ask, the way FDR (in 1934) and Reagan (in 1984) did, if you’re better off than you had been. Since no one knows what the state of the economy will be then, it’s impossible to say at this juncture who won or lost the debate over the stimulus package–it’s a classic Zhou Enlai “too soon to say” question. We’re just in the top of the first, with a long game ahead.