Reagan vs. New Deal: he wins Round No. 1
Washington — President Reagan now has his "new beginning" in place, one that he says will within six months start a "new renaissance in America." Politically, Mr. Reagan's come-from-behind tax-cut victory was impressive. Speaker of the House Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. acknowledged it had "stunned" the Democrats.
But more than that, it spoke of a President whose personal popularity (a new Gallup poll says 8 of 10 Americans now approve of Reagan personally) was such that he could rally Americans to his side when needed.
Ideologically, observers here note, the President now has won more than a first round of his counterrevolution against New Deal social legislation. They point out that with his spending and tax cuts and budget limitation firmly set, Reagan has achieved virtually everything -- and even more -- than he had on his agenda for aiding the economy.
Part of the Democratic resistance to Reagan's tax cut was that it would merely light the fires of inflation again, that it hadn't been tried, and that there was no indication that "supply side" economics would work.
But the basic Democratic objection was that the President's tax victory (particularly when the controversial third year was added) will set the stage for Reagan to come back to Congress in a year or two with proposals for further slashes in social programs that he will insist are needed because of lower revenue caused by these same tax cuts.
Whatever the rhetoric from both sides, observers here see this as not just a spectacular personal victory for Reagan but also as one of vast importance for the conservative cause and for the Republican Party.
However, they add, if the President's plan doesn't show signs that it is helping the economy in six months, he could be in political trouble by the time of the 1982 elections.
The President's performance rating as he readies for his vacation is -- by all assessments, from critics as well as supporters -- high. He appears to have put together a winning coalition in the House of Representatives -- at least on measures that he wants to win and where he is willing to invest considerable personal effort.
This coalition, together with the GOP majority in the Senate, gives him (at least at this point) a de facto hold over Congress.
Reagan's personal popularity is a key part of his winning formula. The Gallup poll now finds that 79 percent of the public approves of Reagan personally, while a lesser share (61 percent) approves of the way he is handling his job.
Political analysts say this means a high percentage of Americans are willing to let the President "have his chance" at governing simply out of admiration and fairness -- even though many of these same people may not approve of what he is doing.
Over breakfast with reporters July 30 Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D) of Washington compared Reagan to Franklin D. Roosevelt, saying:
Reagan understands what is needed for good leadership. He knows how to govern . . . to communicate. He knows you must strike when the iron is hot. What we are see ing is a replay of the techniques Roosevelt used."