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Scoring Trump’s first 100 days

President Donald Trump marks his 100th day in office on April 29. So far, he’s only been able to follow through on a handful of campaign promises. Democrats gleefully highlight deficiencies, but Trump’s supporters say it’s unfair to judge a new president’s performance on such an arbitrary milestone.

New polls this week show Trump’s 44 percent approval rating is the lowest of any new president at this stage since modern polling began. But other data show few Trump voters have buyer’s remorse. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll shows 96 percent of Trump voters remain confident in their decision.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told me evaluating the job performance of a new president after just three months is ridiculous: “You never evaluate the long-term value of a president based on the first 100 days, you base it off of four years.”

Paul Larkin, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, put it like this: “Deciding whether a president is successful after his first 100 days is like deciding whether a baseball team is successful after the first two months of the season.”

Susan Dudley, a regulatory studies and public policy professor at George Washington University, also called the 100-day mark arbitrary, although she noted Trump talked up his first 100 days during the campaign and the transition period. He made many promises about what he would accomplish before Saturday’s milestone, so no one should feel bad about assessing him based on that benchmark, Dudley said.

Despite some missteps, the young Trump administration has delivered on a few key campaign promises.

Ten days after moving into the White House, Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and the Senate confirmed him to the bench 65 days later amid a historic partisan divide.

Not only did this fulfill a central promise, it validated the reason many Americans decided to vote for Trump. According to presidential election exit polls, filling the vacant seat on the high court was the single biggest tipping point for how voters selected a candidate. And a majority of those voters favored Trump.

The Gorsuch confirmation also brought satisfaction to pro-life advocates who went all-in to support Trump on the campaign trail.

“We have a new pro-life Supreme Court justice, and are closer than ever before to stopping taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List. “President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have been game-changers for the pro-life movement.”

Dannenfelser gives Trump a high score for his first 100 days for several reasons. She points to the Gorsuch nomination, but also other pro-life appointments to key positions, including Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Other pro-life accomplishments include reinstating the Mexico City Policy and enacting a law to allow states the option to take away certain funds from Planned Parenthood.

But in other areas, Trump has failed to deliver.

As a candidate, Trump spoke often of building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border to bolster security and prevent illegal immigration and drug trafficking. Since taking office, Trump signed a few executive orders to hire more immigration control and border security officers but has yet to make progress on a wall.

Over the weekend, the White House made a last minute push to allocate funding for a border barrier. But faced with a tight deadline to pass a spending bill before the government shuts down on Saturday, Trump backed off, no closer to building a wall or making Mexico pay for it.

Healthcare reform also remains elusive. Trump told voters repealing and replacing Obamacare would be a top priority, but Republicans have yet to coalesce around a new plan.

Democrats pounced on the failures, flocking to media outlets this week to discuss what they call Trump’s “100 days of broken promises.” Democratic leaders note Trump has yet to reveal an American infrastructure plan, label China a currency manipulator, or pass one significant piece of legislation.

But as Lankford points out, it’s difficult for any administration to pass major legislation and particularly difficult for a new administration which also needs the Senate to confirm hundreds of new positions.

“The Senate can hardly do any legislation in the first 100 days—it’s almost all personnel,” Lankford told me. “We’ve got to go through 1,200 people.”

Eric Edelman, a former under secretary of defense policy for President George W. Bush, said one thing that stands out early in the Trump administration is his national security team. Aside from the Gen. Michael Flynn debacle, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, and new national security adviser H.R. McMaster are all quality selections, Edelman said. Even so, Trump probably won’t have a complete national security team in place until December or January.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also voiced appreciation for Trump’s actions, although he admitted he wished the president would spend less time on social media: “I have said repeatedly, I’m not a big fan of President Trump’s tweeting habits, but if you focus on what he’s actually doing, I think he’s doing exactly the right things for the country.”

— by Evan Wilt

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