Does public like 'Gipper' the way it liked 'Ike'?
Ronald Reagan is on the verge of becoming another Eisenhower in terms of popular appeal. Recent national polls are not only telling of the tremendous popularity of Mr. Reagan but also much more: Americans are beginning to feel the same warmth toward Reagan that they expressed toward Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Bryce Harlow, one of Eisenhower's closest associates, noted this recently after the President had sent along some friendly greetings to the White House correspondents' banquet via phone from Camp David. Mr. Harlow said that it was clear that Reagan had much of that same personal appeal (he called it "magnetism") that Eisenhower always had --
Monitor conversations with political leaders of both parties indicate a growing appreciation for this Reagan way with the voters. Harlow called it the "Eisenhower touch."
These leaders note that the courage and grace shown by the President since he was wounded has certainly helped him in winning the hearts of the voters.
But these politicians -- Democrats as well as Republicans --welling up from the public will not fade quickly. Their consensus is that the President has shown qualities under great stress that will be long remembered -- undoubtedly as long as he is on the political scene.
Thus it is that observers are noting the rise of a new political phenomenon -- growing ranks of Americans who are beginning to identify themselves as "Reagan Republicans." Democrats will often put it this way, "I'm a Reagan man" or "I'm a Reagan woman." Thus the current incumbent seems ready to join those great presidents who inspired the labels "Teddy Roosevelt Republican," "Wilson Democrat," "Franklin D. Roosevelt Democrat," and "Eisenhower Republican."
Within the White House, the poll results are being received with understandable elation. The most welcome polling news to the President and those around him recently was the AP-NBC sample which showed the majority of Americans supporting Reagan's entire economic package, including cuts in federal spending and taxes and higher military spending.
Judging from the enthusiastic response the President got from most members of Congress when he addressed a joint session April 28, the public attitude toward him is widely shared on Capitol Hill.
How much this will help in getting his program through Congress is not clear. The White House attitude is that Congress will act independently, despite Reagan's popularity.
But, privately, Reagan intimates note that the President's high standing with the public, together with the statistics showing widespread support for his economic initiatives, will likely be helpful in persuading some on-the-fence members of Congress to back the Reagan proposal.
The polls are also showing some negatives for the President -- a continuing dissatisfaction with his performance on issues of concern to black American s and a growing worry among many Americans that his foreign policy is too hawkish.