Hope Up, Dow Down

As markets sink, three in four Americans are still hopeful for Obama’s term.

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As Obama prepares for his big speech, polls show Americans’ hearts are still aflutter over the new president. While Congress is occupied with the hot-button issue of pet primates, the administration announced another drastic plan for saving banks and is set to nominate a squeaky-clean Democrat to head the Commerce Department. All told, it’s good for a 25 on the Change-o-Meter.

Leading up to tonight’s State of the Union-style speech to Congress, a new poll shows that a whopping 77 percent of Americans are optimistic about the next four years with Obama in the driver’s seat, and 63 percent approve of the job he is doing now. No points for the high score, since such starry-eyed infatuation is typical for the early days of a new administration. But it’s still heartening to see an approval rating above 60 percent for the first time since 2003.

Emboldened with the hard evidence of his popularity, Obama and his team rolled out a big change yesterday: a provision in the new bailout plan that would allow the federal government to take control of the country’s floundering banks. Set to the background noise of the Dow plunking to its lowest point in 10 years, the announcement of the bank-nationalization option was met with both applause and criticism. The move is unquestionably a bold and drastic policy shift, but for now we’re awarding only 15 points. More will come if Team Economy can make it work.

Finally, sick and tired of controversy over ethically questionable Cabinet nods, Obama seems set to nominate an Eagle Scout for commerce secretary. Gary Locke, the Democratic former governor of Washington, is popular in his home state with a record of bipartisanship, and he’s Chinese-American to boot. The Change-o-Meter racks up another 10 points for learning from past mistakes and choosing a confirmable candidate—assuming he fills out his 1040 forms correctly. Third time’s the charm.

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