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Obama Brings Change During First 100 Days

Barack Obama was elected the 44th U.S. president last November largely because voters were looking for change after eight years of the Bush administration. But how much change has there been in his first 100 days in office? We have some anwers to that question.

From the very moment of his election, Barack Obama has embodied change.

"Because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America," said Barack Obama.

That yearning for change was evident at President Obama's inauguration, as a million Americans jammed the National Mall in Washington to celebrate the rise to power of the nation's first African-American president.

"What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility, a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world," said Mr. Obama.

Some of the changes in the first 100 days have been dramatic.

Mr. Obama's massive stimulus plan seeks to address his greatest challenge - turning around the weak U.S. economy.

The president set in motion the closure of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and set a deadline of August of 2010 for most U.S. troops to leave Iraq.

But some of the biggest changes have come in the national mood, says political expert Stuart Rothenberg.

"The simple question of whether the country is headed in the right direction or is it off on the wrong track, there has been a remarkable surge in optimism on that question," said Stuart Rothenberg. "So, in terms of change, what change has he brought? He has brought that change, a change in the sense of where the country is headed."

Republicans generally oppose Mr. Obama's tax and spending proposals for the economy, warning they will lead to a mountain of debt for future generations.

House Republican leader John Boehner.

"And the fact is that we know we need to help our economy, but my concern is that what is being proposed will not work," said John Boehner.

Mr. Obama has had only limited success in crafting the kind of bipartisan approach to problems he talked about during the presidential campaign.

But Stuart Rothenberg says the public gives him credit for trying.

"Not everybody on the left is happy," he said. "Many on the right are not happy. Some would say that he is probably generally going in the right direction when he has generated criticism on both sides."

Overall, though, the president has maintained strong approval ratings in public- opinion polls, and experts say that gives him political leverage in dealing with Congress and his critics.

Stephen Hess is a political scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

"But this president has one marker that I think is very important, and that is his approval rating, his popularity," said Stephen Hess. "Whatever he has been doing for a 100 days has been very attractive to the American people, and in fact globally to the people of the world."

The public has largely stayed with the president for his first 100 days. But what happens if the economy does not begin to turn around?

Ken Duberstein served as former President Ronald Reagan's chief of staff in the late 1980's. He says the president is counting on the public to remain patient.

"I think Obama is on an important track that by and large the country buys into," said Ken Duberstein. "But he needs to show some incremental progress and I am hoping that takes place."

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll found 69 percent of those asked approve of the job President Obama is doing, while 26 percent disapprove.

Mr. Obama got high marks for his handling of the economy and foreign policy. But concerns were expressed in the poll about the impact of his policies on the federal budget deficit and his dealings with U.S. automakers.