A ‘STRONG AND DECISIVE LEADER’…. It seems fair to say the president-elect is starting the new year on the right foot, at least as far as public support is concerned.

A national poll suggests that three-quarters of the public thinks President-elect Barack Obama is a strong and decisive leader, the highest marks for a president-elect on that characteristic in nearly three decades.

Seventy-six percent of Americans questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Wednesday said Obama is a strong and decisive leader.

“That’s the best number an incoming president has gotten on that dimension since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “The public’s rating of his leadership skills is already as high as George W. Bush’s was after 9/11 and easily beats the numbers that both Bush and Bill Clinton got at the start of their first terms in office.”

Yes, the ratings for Bush’s leadership skills soared after 9/11, and Obama’s numbers are already there. What’s more, eight in ten Americans said Obama “inspires confidence, can get things done and is tough enough to be president, three characteristics Americans look for in a leader and the three qualities on which Obama got his highest scores. He also gets higher marks than Bush did in 2001 on honesty, values, issues, management abilities and compassion.”

I thought Obama would start his presidency with some strong support, but the support is surprisingly strong. CNN’s Bill Schneider recently noted that these are the kinds of numbers that occur “when the public rallies around a leader after a national disaster.”

By most respects, that happens to describe Bush’s presidency.

As I said the other day, all of this can change after Obama actually takes office and starts governing. But as Republicans plot strategy on how to oppose and obstruct the next president’s policy agenda, they may want to remember that Obama will enter the White House with a very deep well of public support.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.