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Pollster Sizes Up Clinton's Challenges

PRESIDENT Clinton hit bottom with American public opinion six weeks ago, but several critical tests loom just ahead, a top Democratic pollster says.

Stanley Greenberg, a Clinton strategist and pollster during the 1992 campaign, says Mr. Clinton must show decisive leadership on his budget package during the next two weeks. Mr. Greenberg told a Monitor breakfast meeting that the president's economic plan needs to pass three tests with a skeptical public and a dubious Congress, which wonder: Does the plan rely too heavily on taxes? Is it good for the economy? Is it fair?

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Many voters are ready to accept higher taxes, Greenberg insists, because the president isn't seen as a typical, Democratic "big spender." But only one-third of them think the plan is good for the economy, he says.

Greenberg says the key to gaining support for the plan will be convincing the public and Congress that it is fair, that it represents a "sharing of sacrifice" by all segments of society.

Clinton's ultimate political future will rest on how well he carries out two major campaign promises: creating 8 million new jobs and passing health care reform, Greenberg says.

Ultimately, Greenberg suggests that health-care reform is the single most important breakthrough the Clinton administration can achieve to "control our fate and keep our promises."

Clinton's public approval rating, which has edged upward from around 35 percent in June to about 45 percent today, will keep rising if he demonstrates leadership on his economic package this summer, Greenberg predicts.

But Clinton is fighting deep public skepticism which makes his job more difficult, he says. Greenberg notes that on his first day in office, 24 percent of Americans already said they disapproved of the way Clinton was doing his job.

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