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April 29th, 2009
06:51 AM ET

A Centrist’s Defense of Obama’s First 100 Days

John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics. He writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast and is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Previously, he served as Chief Speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/29/avlon.john.art.jpg caption= "John Avlon was director of speechwriting and deputy director of policy for Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign."]

By John Avlon
Special to CNN

Washington’s been crawling with professional partisans who delight in describing the death of President Obama’s post-partisanship at the end of his first 100 days.

For people conditioned to a vision of politics as an ideological blood sport between red states and blue, attempts at building broad coalitions to solve problems can seem saccharine and unsatisfying. Yes, President Obama has found a sometimes rocky transition from the poetry of campaigning to the prose of governing. The rules of Congress are rigged to reward hyper-partisanship, and interest-groups like to pump up the volume in their respective echo chambers.

But President Obama has made a good faith effort to follow through on his promise to end the politics of polarization. It’s only a start – and his rhetoric has often far outpaced his record on this front – but a culture can’t be changed in 100 days. The important thing is for President Obama to keep trying to write the presidential post-partisan playbook – because that’s been the secret of his success to date.

A CNN poll shows that 61% of independents approve of Obama’s job performance, edging toward the administration in the cavernous gap between the extremes. The Gallup Poll shows 62% of independents believe that President Obama is making a sincere effort to work with congressional Republicans, while they see congressional Democrats and Republicans as obstructing bipartisan efforts.

This is far from a blank check for the Obama administration – centrists and independents remain wary of the influence of the liberal House leadership on the Obama legislative agenda, especially on spending and the absence of checks and balances to special interest wish list items. But to this independent observer’s eyes, President Obama has earned a solid B+ in his first 100 days.

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Filed under: National Report Card • Politics
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