What helped to change the dynamic, and greatly strengthened Reagan's hand, was a near tragedy—the attempt on his life by a disturbed publicity-seeker on March 30, a bit more than two months into his administration. John Hinckley's bullets, fired from a small crowd as Reagan was leaving a Washington hotel after a speech, nearly killed the 70-year-old president. But Reagan survived and, in the process, demonstrated grit, bravery, and a sense of humor.
"The shooting is probably what most Americans will remember about the 100 days," recalled former TV commentator Roger Mudd. "And because he performed under fire that day as if it had been in a movie, President Reagan made it difficult for all of us to think of him, ever again, as just another B-grade actor." Political scientist Richard Neustadt wrote in Presidential Studies Quarterly, "The Reagan case, so often cited as exceptional, is less different than it seems, although his gallant response to attempted assassination, coupled with his concentration on a nominally single target, the budget, and Democratic shock after losing the Senate, changed both public and congressional parameters for the time being."
What also helped Reagan was his powerful communication skills. As a former actor in the movies and on television, he was able to appeal directly to the public through frequent speeches and televised addresses from the Oval Office, and Americans quickly came to like him, even if many disagreed with his policies.
It took Reagan more than 100 days to get his program of tax cuts and less government through Congress, but he did succeed. And many historians say it was his first 100 days that paved the way, by enabling Reagan to bond with Middle America and show his determination to keep pushing until his program got through.