Since the days of Harry Truman, presidents have been graded more by their first 100 days in office than their next 1,361 days – Donald Trump more than any other. But with the constant obstruction thrown up by Democrats and the president’s struggles to get firm footing, Trump’s first 100 days will pale in comparison to what is coming next. I am convinced that the next 100 days will determine the Trump legacy. Four key challenges, and the way the president responds to them, will set the trajectory for the 45th president.
1. North Korea
Presidents are largely judged by world events, over which they often have little influence. But make no mistake, North Korea – not Russia or Syria or Afghanistan – will mark the defining moment of the Trump legacy on the world stage. President Kim Jong-un will push this president as far as he can. Already, he has kidnapped Americans, returned one in a comatose state, and taken illegal steps to threaten Japan, South Korea, and the United States militarily. President Trump must know by now that he cannot count on help from China. North Korea will be his “Cuban Missile Crisis.” The strength of his response – and it must come quickly – will send a message to the world.
2. Tax Reform
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is the man to make this happen. The U.S. continues to burden her companies with the highest corporate tax rate of any developed country. And it’s not even close. In Ryan’s tax speech Monday, he laid out his plans. For those who were able to stay awake and not drown in the detail, they seemed pleased. Certainly, the stock market has responded well, continuing to shatter unthinkable records previous administrations would have never dreamed we could reach. With the House set to bring this legislation forward in the next few months, this can be the crown jewel of the Trump presidency to date.
3. Repealing Obamacare
New Mexico just did what so many other states have already done. It became a one-carrier state, as insurance providers continue to pull their support of Obamacare. Insurance companies are coming to a universal conclusion – they cannot afford to stay in the current system. The Affordable Care Act is quickly dying under its own weight. But this may present the new president with his greatest challenge. The House barely passed their version of repeal & replace. Tomorrow, we get our first peek at the Senate’s version, and early reports make it clear that it will be nearly impossible for the Senate to craft a bill that is tolerable to both wings of the Republican caucus, represented by Cruz/Lee on one end and Collins/Murkowski on the other.
4. 2018 Budget
The Trump budget proposal received expected condemnation by Democrats. The fact that it had “Trump” written on it meant it had zero chance of support from the party of no. But the real challenge is getting the near-unanimous Republican support necessary to pass a conservative budget. The good news is that what will likely emerge from the Trump/Ryan compromise will be a plan that gets to a balanced budget, strengthens military spending, is pro-business, and is well-received by both Main Street and Wall Street. Again, one need look no further than the record Dow Jones Industrial Average to see how economists are judging what they see.
President Trump’s first 100 days were entertaining. In some respects, they were highly successful. In other ways, they were not. But by September 30 – 100 days from today – we will know a lot more about the Trump legacy. The trajectory he will find himself on in 100 days is the trajectory that will guide the next 3.5 years. And if he proves successful in these four areas, I predict his approval ratings will rise from 35-40 percent (pick your poll) to near 50 percent.
Will Donald Trump have a successful presidency? We’ll know in 100 days.