Elon students, faculty believe elected president’s “first 100 days” should focus on economy above all

By Stephanie Butzer

The “first 100 days” concept may have started more than 70 years ago with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s presidency, but it is still used today as a measuring device for the success of a president’s first few days in office.

“The idea is that when you first become president you have some sort of a mandate in some sense,” Steven Bednar, an assistant professor of economics at Elon University, said. “People say, ‘okay, you’re elected. Let’s see what you can get done.’ 100 days is kind of a measuring stake.”

The president is generally more popular early in the term and, with the addition of an electoral victory, they are usually at their strongest. The first 100 days is seen as their time to show what they can do.

Thomas Carsey, a professor in the department of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the “first 100 days” concept serves as a metaphor that has more power when a majority of citizens feel like the country is facing difficult times. It prompts the newly elected president to get off to a fast start and start making positive changes, he said.

Both Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama have ideas they plan to implement. However, whoever wins the election will have to get through Congress to have any of these plans passed. The president does not have the power to do everything they say they will because there are dozens of other factors to address first, Bednar said.

“Whoever the candidate is, they’re going to have ideas,” Bednar said. “They’re going to have programs they want to implement but the party opposing them is probably going to have opposite views so we’ll see what can actually happen.”

Bednar believes that the biggest issue the elected president will have to face is the domestic economy and unemployment rate.

“The main things are we need to start focusing on the economy even more and we need to make sure that our position in the geopolitical landscape is kind of firm,” Bednar said.

Photo credit Stephanie Butzer

Laura Williams and Carolyn Macaulay discuss the “first 100 days” concept and the most important issues to address. Photo credit Stephanie Butzer

Laura Williams, director of the Curriculum Resource Center, agrees. She said while unemployment has been on everyone’s minds for a while now, it has been itching forward.

“We have been making progress, but I think people want to see some more dramatic improvements,” Williams said.

Although she is a proud supporter of one candidate, she said she believes the other would also focus on the unemployment rate.

As a senior gradating in the near future, Carolyn Macaulay is concerned with this issue.

“Jobs are probably the number one hot ticket item but I would also say that getting the economy back on the right track, I know that adds into it, but just trying to get us back to where we were with jobs and taxes and etcetera,” Macaulay said.

Bednar described what each candidate should accomplish during these first 100 days to help the public understand what their goals are: Romney would need to firmly establish his positions while Obama would need to be clear on what he is going to continue to do to avoid any further foreign conflicts.

“Presidents generally seek to focus on those problems that are most pressing as well as problems that they believe they can impact,” Carsey said. “It is generally quite closely connected to what they stressed during their election campaigns.”

Other conflicts include the country’s deficit and debt, but Bednar said getting the economy going is probably more important than trying to pay down the debt and lower the deficit, at least for the short-term.

Bednar said that the elected president should also focus on finding somebody to explain this issue to the public in plain English.

“It’s a very complicated issue, but the idea is that if we get the economy going, we get new people with new jobs, they pay taxes and so the revenue is increased by the growth of the economy and we can use that to pay down the debt,” Bednar said.

Elon junior, Kurt Lestan, believes that while the economy should be something that is tackled early on, America’s education should be addressed first. He has faith that the economy is starting to regain its health.

“I think the economy, as it is, is on the way up,” Lestan said. “So, I think no matter who is the president, things are only going to get better. Its not going to get worse, as far as the economy goes. The first thing I would look to to address would be education.”

Cherelle Hunter, senior, hopes the next elected president will focus on something that directly hits home for millions of people: the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

“Being from up north, my parents are up there right now and a lot of devastation has gone on up there,” Hunter said. “They still need to get to work and all this public transportation is messed up.”

The elections will be held tomorrow, Nov. 6, 2012. The president will have more than 50 days to ensure he, and the public, understand what he aims to accomplish in the first 100 days in the White House.

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