Barack Obama might have been in office for less than a week, but the euphoria is beginning to wane.
The new President’s approval ratings have fallen from a stratospheric 83 per cent to a more modest–although still impressive–68 per cent.
Washington analysts said the scale of the drop in the Gallup poll underlines the immense challenges Mr Obama faces in trying to turn round the U.S.’s battered fortunes.
He still remains vastly more popular than his predecessor George Bush–who left office with around 25 per cent approval.
But there were signs yesterday that reality has set in following the wave of optimism surrounding his inauguration last Tuesday.
Mr Obama is facing an ugly battle with Republicans over his plans to bail out the economy with £515billion of taxpayers’ cash. Opposition leaders claim the rescue package relies too much on government spending and not enough on tax relief for families and small businesses.
In a radio address at the weekend Mr Obama gave details of his plan for the first time, saying he wants to double the nation’s use of wind and solar power within three years and modernise 10,000 schools to help combat the ‘unprecedented crisis’ faced by the country.
The address was also broadcast on YouTube, where it drew 450,000 views and 3,000 comments–most of them positive–in just one day.
But the President’s top financial adviser Larry Summers, head of the National Economic Council, risked angering Republicans last night by refusing to rule out yet another influx of government money to prop up the ailing U.S. banks.
He said: ‘What ultimately will be necessary is something that will play out over time.’ Mr Obama’s hopes of enacting the bailout with bipartisan support next month appeared to be fading last night with Republican leader John Boehner warning that his party could vote against it.
Senator John McCain, Mr Obama’s opponent in the November presidential contest, also said he did not believe the package did enough to create jobs.
‘There have to be major rewrites if we want to stimulate the economy. . . . As it stands now I can’t vote for it,’ McCain told Fox television.
The President’s new focus in the war on terror is also causing controversy.
While he plans to shift all combat troops out of Iraq over the next 16 months, many soldiers will find themselves in the thick of a new battle in Afghanistan.
Vice President Joe Biden warned that Americans should expect casualties as up to 30,000 more U.S. troops are sent there to fight the resurgent Taliban.
In a TV interview yesterday, he said the additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be engaging the enemy more.
Asked if that means the public should expect more deaths, he said: ‘I hate to say it, but yes, I think there will be. There will be an uptick.’