Washington — Now was the time for the President's popularity to plummet. Laughingly, he had predicted that he would be "hanged in effigy" once he announced his spending cuts.
But it simply hasn't happened.
All indications the Monitor is receiving, from conversations on Capitol Hill and with leading politicians elsewhere around the United States, are that Mr. Reagan -- tough talk and all on trimming -- is still riding high.
Polling in a number of regions found (a) the Reagan "economic renewal" speech before a joint session of Congress was well received and (b) either the spending reductions were being found tolerable (or at least logical), or their implications had not yet sunk in.
Some political pundits here had forecast that, once reagan disclosed his plan for the economy and the places where belt-tightening would have to come, there would be a nationwide clamor of disapproval - one that might erode the President's popularity overnight, almost as much, perhaps, as what happened to President Ford's poll standing when he pardoned Richard Nixon.
While coming national polls may find President Reagan's rating has dropped a bit, the early local radio and newspaper polls around the country indicate that such damage won't be substantial.
In fact, it seems that, up to now anyway, Reagan has strengthened his image by his strong stand on the economy.
Several top politicians now have told the Monitor, in effect:
What the people want is a president who is presidential, someone who is not wishy- washy. Reagan is proving, right from the start, that he knows where he is going and he is set on moving in that direction.
The National Governors' Conference here in Washington this week could well have been the setting for these leaders to rise up and embarrass the President by their opposition to his program.
Had Reagan missed the mark, the governors -- or, certainly, the Democratic governors here -- could have denounced his plan with a resolution.
Instead, the governors, for the most part, are proving most agreeable to getting less aid from Washington -- if, in the process, there will be fewer restrictions on how states use the aid they will receive.
Oddly, this "exchange" they are talking about involves no big concession on the President's part. He proposes less aid to the states, with that aid including more flexibility in the way states can use it.
Public perception of the new President now seems to come down to this:
* That he is, with diligence, trying something new, something that just might curb inflation and turn the economy around.
* That in speaking up to the Russians the President is off to a good start in trying to build up respect for the United States around the world. Reagan's emphasis on a US defense buildup is also being generally applauded by the A merican people.