His advantage on the deficit is notable, given the very broad concern about its size -- 87 percent of Americans are concerned about it, 56 percent "very" concerned -- as well as Obama's own weak rating for handling it, 48 percent approval. The Republicans may have opportunity here, but they have yet to capitalize on it.
This also is shown by Obama's ability thus far to evade the "tax-and-spend" label; 58 percent of Americans see him as a "new-style Democrat who will be careful with the public's money" rather than "an old-style, tax-and-spend Democrat" -- down a titch from 62 percent in March, but still a good majority. That shows far better sustain than Clinton, whose rating as a non-profligate Democrat dropped from 61 percent to 48 percent in his first four months.
Nonetheless, Obama's vulnerability on the economy remains -- exemplified by Reagan, the last president to take office in the teeth of a recession. His approval fell from a peak of 73 percent in March 1981 to 48 percent as the economy still struggled 11 months later. And today, public ratings of current economic conditions are just a few points from their record low in 23 years of weekly tracking by ABC News.
In ratings on handling the threat of terrorism, Obama similarly is staying out of trouble so far -- yet faces some significant risks. He leads the Republicans in trust to handle terrorism by 21 points, and holds a 57 percent approval rating on the issue, even with sharp divisions on some of his policies. Just half the public agrees with his ban on torture of terrorism suspects in all cases. Fewer, 45 percent, support his decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center by early next year -- and if it means transferring terrorism suspects for trial in the respondent's own state, support drops to 37 percent.
Nonetheless, relatively few, 22 percent, say the country has become less safe from terrorism under Obama; 32 percent say it's more safe, 44 percent the same -- unchanged since April.
DEMS and INDIES -- Boosted by the president, the Democratic Party has far more support than the opposition -- a 53 percent favorable rating, 17 points better than the GOP's. But that doesn't apply to one congressional Democrat in particular: Just 38 percent approve of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's job performance, matching the departing rating of Newt Gingrich in 1998. Pelosi has 62 percent approval from Democrats, plummeting to 33 percent among independents and 9 percent among Republicans.
Indeed, many of these views remain highly partisan. Obama, for his part, has 88 percent approval among Democrats and 65 percent among independents, but just 26 percent among Republicans. One likely reason is that the shrunken ranks of Republicans means those who remain are true believers.
While appeal to remaining Republicans looks highly unlikely, Obama's ability to hold the center -- the growing ranks of independents -- is crucial to his fortunes. And that may be the greatest challenge he faces; while independents give him a 65 percent approval rating overall, that declines to 54 percent on the economy and 50 percent on health care and the deficit, all marquee issues. Just half of independents, likewise, think the stimulus either has worked, or will work, to improve the economy.