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Political Insiders Poll

Q: How likely is Barack Obama to be a successful president?

Democrats (84 votes)

Very likely              50 percent 
Somewhat likely          46 percent
Somewhat unlikely         2 percent
Very unlikely             0 percent
Don't know (volunteered)  1 percent


Very likely

"With the economy in such dire straits and [with] such high expectations, I expect Obama to be able to accomplish more through the Congress than most recent presidents. Most leaders want and need him to succeed right now. His very early start gives him a great head of steam."

"If the standard is George W. Bush, then success is a no-brainer."


"He has the two things that are critical for success: inner peace and intellectual curiosity. Bush had the former but not the latter. The country wants [Obama] to succeed. And as long as he keeps reaching out to them, they will give him every possible chance."

"The bar is so low [that] success will be easy to define."

"The times and the man--the right combination."

"Although everything, including his ultimate legacy, will depend on whether his vision and agenda are and remain his own. Right now, on first appearance, they sadly seem to be too much 'Clinton redux.' "


"Only because he starts off with so much goodwill."

Somewhat likely

"If the economy rises, he could be the next FDR. If it doesn't, he'll have trouble."

"But he inherits some real messes. And I'm not sure anyone can come out smelling like a rose after walking through a stink garden like he will."

"There are too many imponderables to go further than this, particularly a daunting economic situation. How many post-1960 presidencies have been successful? Probably only Reagan truly meets the standard. And that's one out of nine."

"He's done everything right, has what it takes, and has assembled the best team possible, but politics is an arena where rational planning, experience, and talent don't always add up to winning."

"His predecessor was such a disaster, he has to look good by comparison. But the times demand real leadership, not just eloquent speeches."

Somewhat unlikely

"May not be able to deliver, ultimately, what the American people want. How long will American patience last?"

Q: How likely is Barack Obama to be a successful president?

Republicans (92 votes)

Very likely              15 percent
Somewhat likely          67 percent
Somewhat unlikely        14 percent
Very unlikely             0 percent
Don't know (volunteered)  3 percent


Very likely

"Fair or not, Bush owns the war and the recession. Obama has a ton of room to operate. Best setup since Carter to Reagan."

"The media will carve his legacy for him in marble."

Somewhat likely

"There's really no track record to give confidence, other than a superb campaign and a pretty good set of nominations. But those count for something, and give one a gut feel that he has the talent and team to succeed."

"After Bush, it won't be hard. Plus, the media will give him a free ride no matter what he does."

"Steps into office with the country [facing] historical challenges. If he can tackle those challenges, he will be looked at as more successful. But how patient will people be?"

"His formidable political skills ensure that even the most mediocre set of accomplishments will be presented in an incredibly favorable light."

"His instincts have been great so far, but we'll see whether he can hold to his bipartisan course when push comes to shove."

"History is posing a big upside and a big downside: Can he be decisive and not get mired in coalition-dominated Democratic politics?"

"This feels like Clinton in January of 1993: fawning press coverage, fame, glitz. But the media is fickle, and the honeymoon won't last forever. Obama is good, but there are lots of challenges ahead and a fragile coalition on the Hill."

"In the aftermath of 9/11, conventional wisdom was that Bush would be a successful president. A lot can change in four or eight years."

Somewhat unlikely

"The temptations of hubris and power are too great for the Democrats to resist."

"He's doing all the right things, but the scope of the country's economic problems are so great it's hard to see how he avoids getting buried."

Q: How would you assess George W. Bush's presidency?

Democrats (84 votes)

Great              0 percent
Good               0 percent
Fair               5 percent
Poor              29 percent
Terrible          64 percent
Below "terrible" 
   (volunteered)   2 percent



"Potential to be the Truman on the Republican side. Stay tuned."


"History could improve his performance if Iraq and the Middle East turn out positive in regards to the start of democracy."

"Only his counter-terrorism success in this country staves off the worst potential assessment."


"We are in a mess that will take years to repair. And voters know that."

"This guy has become the Franklin Pierce of the modern era. W.'s whole history-will-judge-me mantra is the mark of a president who has worsened almost everything he touched."

"War, Katrina, erosion of civil liberties aside, he deserves the worst grades for abdicating his responsibility to cast politics aside and deal boldly with the economic crisis, whether he is responsible for creating it or not. For this, he should swim in history at the bottom of the pool with Mr. Hoover."

"From record surplus to record debt, most-liked nation after 9/11 to most-hated, prosperity to meltdown and recession, [he's the] biggest blot on American history."

"I never dreamed I would live to see a president far worse than Nixon."

Below 'terrible'

"Below terrible: criminal. By comparison, Warren G. Harding looks outstanding."

Q: How would you assess George W. Bush's presidency?

Republicans (92 votes)

Great               1 percent
Good               34 percent
Fair               35 percent
Poor               22 percent
Terrible            8 percent
Depends on subject 
   (volunteered)    1 percent



"He will be validated and vindicated by history."


"His accomplishments will require the lens of history to see clearly: stabilizing the economy post-9/11, preventing any further such attacks on his watch, and making historical investments in poverty- and AIDS-stricken Africa."

"We haven't suffered a terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. Shouldn't that count for something?"


"He has a number of accomplishments for which history will judge him well. But he bet the entire Republican farm on Iraq--and lost the bet."

"He kept our country safe, and just about screwed up everything else."


"He has done more to damage the cause of limited government than any president in a generation."

"The Bush administration will long be remembered for its mismanagement, missed opportunities, and arrogance."


"Never ready to be president. No way for the Bushies to rewrite history."

Democratic Political Insiders Jill Alper, Brad Bannon, Dave Beattie, Andy Bechhoefer, Cornell Belcher, Mitchell W. Berger, Mike Berman, Paul Brathwaite, Donna Brazile, Mark Brewer, Ed Bruley, George Bruno, Deb Callahan, Bonnie Campbell, Bill Carrick, Martin J. Chavez, Tony Coelho, Jerry Crawford, Jeff Danielson, Peter Daou, Jim Demers, Tad Devine, David Di Martino, Debbie Dingell, Monica Dixon, Patrick Dorton, Anita Dunn, Jeff Eller, Steve Elmendorf, Carter Eskew, Eric Eve, Vic Fazio, Peter Fenn, Scott Ferson, Gordon Fischer, Tina Flournoy, Don Foley, Don Fowler, Gina Glantz, Niles Godes, Joe Grandmaison, Anna Greenberg, Stan Greenberg, Pat Griffin, Larry Grisolano, Michael Gronstal, Marcia Hale, Paul Harstad, Laura Hartigan, Mike Henry, Leo Hindery, Jr., Harold Ickes, Marcus Jadotte, John Jameson, Steve Jarding, Jonathon Jones, Jim Jordan, Gale Kaufman, Kam Kuwata, Celinda Lake, David Lang, Chris Lehane, Jeff Link, Bill Lynch, Steve Marchand, Jim Margolis, Paul Maslin, Susan McCue, Gerald McEntee, Tom McMahon, Phil McNamara, David Medina, Mark Mellman, John Merrigan, Steve Murphy, Janet Napolitano, David Nassar, Marcia Nichols, John Norris, Tom Ochs, Tom O'Donnell, Scott Parven, Jeffrey Peck, Debora Pignatelli, Tony Podesta, Larry Rasky, Bruce Reed, Mame Reiley, Steve Ricchetti, Will Robinson, Steve Rosenthal, David Rudd, John Ryan, Wendy Sherman, Terry Shumaker, Phil Singer, Erik Smith, Doug Sosnik, Darry Sragow, Katrina Swett, Sarah Swisher, Eric Tabor, Jeffrey Trammell, Ed Turlington, Mike Veon, Rick Wiener, Bridgette Williams, JoDee Winterhof, and Jim Zogby.

GOP Political Insiders Dan Allen, Stan Anderson, Gary Andres, Saulius (Saul) Anuzis, Rich Ashooh, Whit Ayres, Brett Bader, Mitch Bainwol, Gary Bauer, David Beckwith, Clark Benson, Wayne Berman, Brian Bieron, Charlie Black, Kirk Blalock, Carmine Boal, Jeff Boeyink, Ron Bonjean, Jeff Buley, Luke Byars, Nick Calio, Danny Carroll, Ron Christie, Jim Cicconi, Cesar Conda, Jake Corman, Charlie Crist, Greg Crist, Diane Crookham-Johnson, Fergus Cullen, Mike Dennehy, Ken Duberstein, Steve Duprey, Debi Durham, Frank Fahrenkopf, John Feehery, Don Fierce, Carl Forti, Alex Gage, Sam Geduldig, Benjamin Ginsberg, Bill Greener, Jonathan Grella, Lanny Griffith, Janet Mullins Grissom, Doug Gross, Todd Harris, Steve Hart, Christopher Healy, Ralph Hellmann, Chris Henick, Terry Holt, David Iannelli, Clark Judge, David Keating, David Kensinger, Bruce Keough, Bob Kjellander, Ed Kutler, Chris Lacivita, Steve Lombardo, Kevin Madden, Joel Maiola, Gary Maloney, David Marin, Mary Matalin, Dan Mattoon, Mark McKinnon, Kyle McSlarrow, Ken Mehlman, Jim Merrill, Mike Murphy, Phil Musser, Ron Nehring, Terry Nelson, Neil Newhouse, David Norcross, Ziad Ojakli, Jack Oliver, Van B. Poole, Tom Rath, Scott Reed, David Rehr, Steve Roberts, Jason Roe, David Roederer, Dan Schnur, Russ Schriefer, Rich Schwarm, Brent Seaborn, Rick Shelby, Andrew Shore, Don Sipple, Robin Smith, Javier Soto, Fred Steeper, Bob Stevenson, Eric Tanenblatt, Heath Thompson, Jay Timmons, Warren Tompkins, Ted Van Der Meid, Dirk van Dongen, Jan van Lohuizen, Dick Wadhams, John Weaver, Tom Wilson, Dave Winston, Ginny Wolfe, and Fred Wszolek.

This article appears in the January 17, 2009 edition of National Journal Magazine Contents.

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