As President Obama passes the midway point of his current term, it’s natural for the country to take stock of the man in the Oval Office. He is the most admired man in America, according to the Gallup Poll, and political pros and scholars say that at least part of the reason is because Americans like three qualities that seem to ominate Obama’s approach to governing: pragmatism, persistence, and optimism. Obama’s persistence is also one of his central attributes. At his year-end news conference on December 22, he said that his job performance in 2010 should have showed people that he doesn’t give up easily and that when he sets an objective, he will keep at it long after his adversaries thought he would have quit trying. “I am persistent,” Obama said. “If I believe in something strongly, I stay on it.” He added that his deal-making during the lame-duck session of Congress in December proved his point, as he defied expectations to win passage of a big economic and unemployment package and Senate ratification of the New START arms-control treaty with Russia.
What impresses many Republicans the most is his upbeat nature. “He has learned that Americans don’t want to hear gloom and doom,” says one of the former adviser to a GOP president. “He tries to balance realism with a sense that things will get better.” Obama still expresses optimism across the board, even on seemingly intractable problems such as Mideast peace, improving relations with Iran and North Korea, and achieving comity in Washington despite bitter partisanship. Some conservatives still use negative words to describe Obama, such as socialist, left-winger, out-of-touch, and elitist. They point out that some of his policies, including government intervention in the economy, are unpopular with vast swaths of the electorate. But as Obama gradually defines himself, his personal qualities of pragmatism, persistence, and optimism are shining through, and many Americans like what they see.