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Obama Faces Even More Complex Challenges in 2nd 100 Days


President Barack Obama made it through his first 100 days in office in good shape politically, at least according to U.S. public-opinion polls. But if anything, Mr. Obama's next 100 days in the White House could be even tougher given the assortment of issues and challenges he is expected to face.

During a recent news conference, President Obama seemed intent on not letting those strong public-approval poll numbers go to his head.

"I think we are off to a good start," he said. "But it is just a start. I am proud of what we have achieved, but I am not content."

If anything, the challenges during Mr. Obama's second 100 days in office are even more complicated.

Any number of foreign policy issues could grow in intensity, especially the situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

At home, the president must keep his focus on the economy while also moving ahead to the next items on his domestic policy agenda, namely health-care reform and energy independence.

But the president has won little support from opposition Republicans for his economic agenda. Republicans warn that Mr. Obama's spending policies will plunge the nation deeper into debt.

Despite those concerns, the public seems willing to continue to give the president the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the economy.

Andrew Kohut is president of the Pew Research Center and a guest on VOA's recent Town Hall program looking at President Obama's first 100 days in office.

"And what he has been able to do is inspire confidence even as the public has a somewhat mixed view about the way he will go about fixing the economy," said Andrew Kohut. "People are worried about the rising deficit. They are worried about too much government in business. But they are willing to go along with the president because they think he is in charge and they believe that he can do it."

In addition to the economy, new domestic challenges are on the horizon. The president will have to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, and Republicans are already looking ahead to the Senate confirmation process that will scrutinize Mr. Obama's eventual nominee.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings on the president's choice for the high court.

"I hope that he will pick somebody who will, like I say, not put their own personal predilections [views] into law, but will follow the law and do what really is right," said Senator Hatch.

Republicans are already warning the president not to pick someone for the Supreme Court whom they regard as too liberal.

Mr. Obama positioned himself as a centrist early on, but the public's view appears to be shifting, according to Andrew Kohut.

"We found in January that most people said he was listening to his moderates," said President Obama. "That perception has changed. It has not hurt him yet. But if he is seen as taking an ideological approach that will undermine the notion that he is a different kind of president and that he is a centrist, and centrism is in."

But many liberal activists and groups on the political left do not necessarily agree with the notion that political centrism is in. Some of them were disappointed with the president's decision to move more slowly than they would like on pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, and with his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Liberal groups are also demanding the administration push Congress for quick action on health-care reform and regulating greenhouse gas emissions in the months ahead.

Benjamin Armbruster is with the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning public-policy research organization in Washington.

"I think we are going to see more action on climate change and health care," said Benjamin Armbruster. "I think Congress wants to get health care done this year. I think if you do not get health care done this year it is going to be very, very difficult in the years following."

Armbruster was a guest on VOA's Encounter program, as was John Fortier with the more conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Fortier says the next 100 days and the 100 after that will be a crucial period for President Obama.

"The early signs are good for him, but there is a lot to do," said John Fortier. "And so the difficult legislative tasks are ahead and how well he does on that will be what we judge him on."

The Republicans are still trying to find their footing as the opposition party early in Mr. Obama's presidency. They could decide to mount a major fight over his Supreme Court nominee, depending on whom the president eventually chooses.

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