From the San Francisco Chronicle:
In his first 100 days as president, Barack Obama has marshaled a potent array of political weapons to keep himself at the top of public opinion polls – a blend of skillful communication and messaging, unprecedented voter outreach and the creative use of technical, youth-oriented organizing tools never before seen in American presidential politics.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele can complain all he wants about “teleprompter” politics – and the “permanent campaign” of the Democratic president – but in his short time in office, the 44th president has used more than a teleprompter to keep his poll numbers high and his public image burnished.
Obama has managed to effectively communicate his message to Americans with a string of prime-time news conferences, an unprecedented appearance on the “Tonight” show, a surprise stop to visit U.S. troops in Iraq, town hall meetings, cavorting with the family dog and escorting his elegant wife across Europe.
A new CNN poll released this week finds Obama to be even more popular than his politics: A whopping 63 percent of American voters approve of the way he is handling his job – and 75 percent, a number rarely heard in presidential politics, believe he has the personality and leadership qualities for the job.
Yet, far fewer – 57 percent – say they agree with the president on the issues that matter most to them, the CNN poll found.
Morley Winograd and Mike Hais, co-authors of “Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube and the Future of American Politics,” say Obama’s buoyant numbers are pegged in large part to a demographic marker – his continued appeal to millions of so-called “millennial” voters.
These younger voters represent the largest and most diverse generation in American history and are still the focus of intense political outreach by Team Obama, the authors say.
Yet Obama’s success in maintaining his popularity and polls in the critical first benchmark isn’t limited to the 20- and 30-somethings alone, veteran political insiders say.
“America likes him,” said former California Gov. Gray Davis, watching the president’s uncanny ability to walk the political tightrope in tough times at home and abroad.
Davis notes that Obama hasn’t failed to include millions of older Americans – like Davis – who receive communications “on an almost daily basis on his agenda (regarding) the need to rally people around issues.”
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown adds that a critical key to Obama’s popularity and public image has been his leading partner in the White House – first lady Michelle Obama, who has melded family matters and an engaging public persona in a groundbreaking way.
Still, some critics suggest that in the first 100 days Obama has been too much in an ongoing campaign mode.
“Clearly, there has been an absence of the way Reagan established priorities” during his first 100 days in office, said Al Felzenberg, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania […]
“One day he’s talking about the banking crisis, the next day it’s the car bailout, the next day it’s the stimulus, the next day it’s green energy, then next day it’s education. I can’t keep up. In some ways, it shows a Clintonesque lack of discipline. You have to set priorities. Set some dates.”
But Larry Berman, a professor of political science at UC Davis who teaches a course on Obama’s first 100 days in office, said the president has managed a messaging miracle as he’s “tried to change the image of Americans” abroad that were formed during the Bush administration.
The groundbreaking factor remains how Obama can do it in more venues – the Internet, social networking sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter – than any past president ever had at his fingertips, Winograd says.