President now may speed his legislative agenda
The Reagan administration's momentum is being successfully sustained. This is the verdict of veteran presidential watchers here who see the day-to-day responsibilities of President Reagan being attended to quite ably, but very quietly, by Vice-President George Bush.
Further, an apparent big rise in Mr. Reagan's standing with the public provides evidence that the Reagan administration has been buoyed, not impaired, in the aftermath of the assassination attempt. This is largely attributed to the President's personal reaction to what was a grave situation for both him and the nation.
One White House source says that the President is riding so high in public opinion that the administration conceivably might go ahead with new legislative proposals that were being held back in order to concentrate on congressional passage of Reagan's economic package.
Earlier, the President had indicated he would defer what he deems priority social legislation -- such as in abortion, busing, and tax credits for parents with children in private schools -- until next year.
Now, with the prospect that Congress, getting a nudge from the public, may give quick attention to the GOP economic package, the Reagan people see the possibility that they may be able to put more on Congress's plate before the end of the year.
The major momentum builder, of course, was Ronald Reagan and the glowing reports about the state of his health. The rapidly recovering Chief Executive was signing some bills on the day following his surgery. And there was every evidence that it wouldn't be long before he could return to work full time.
The only possible political casualty stemming from the tragic events of Monday is Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. In the eyes of some Powerful people close to the President, Mr. Haig did not "keep his cool."
Yet, to provide a show of unity in the President's absence, the White House is going out of its way to reinforce Haig by saying publicly that he should be commended for acting as the coordination point after the shooting.
Thus, Haig seems likely to survive a performance on TV marred by his display of emotion and some faulty information. The secretary stated that he was third in presidential succession after the Vice-President, when in fact the 25th Amendment puts the secretary of state fifth, with both the speaker of House and president pro tempore of the Senate ahead of him.
In the wake of the assassination attempt, this assessment of the Reagan administration has emerged, as seen by expert observers here:
* The administration has been strengthened by a tragic event that came close to destroying it, or impairing its capacity to function as effectively as before.
The prognosis for the President, for both his returning to work and for his administration, now is considered better than before.
Sen. Gary Hart (D) of Colorado, a relatively liberal Democrat, told reporters over breakfast April 2 that not only did he "love the President personally" but that he also expected the President's political honeymoon to be extended.
Asked if he thought that the Democrats in Congress now would give the President's program quicker attention and better treatment, the senator said he really didn't see how the Democrats could be much more cooperative than they have been in recent days.
Senator Hart was reflecting the attitude of Democrats in both houses of Congress: They are going to seek to cut back on both the President's tax and spending-reduction plans --and with compromise, not obstruction, as the goal.
* The President has gained for himself a tremendous political asset: Polls are showing and reporters all over the United States now are finding that an immense amount of affection for Reagan is welling up from the public.
"When a president begins to be loved," one political analyst says, "Then he's got a lot going for him."