Since the Democrats' "shellacking" at the polls in November, "the political world has taken an abrupt turn in direction," says Mark Murray at MSNBC, specifically, in President Obama's direction. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll puts Obama's approval rating at 53 percent, an 8-point bump from December and his highest mark since July 2009 — and that's just his latest good polling news: CNN and Gallup also have Obama at 53 percent, and Washington Post/ABC pollsters notch his approval at 54 percent. What's behind this bump? (Watch a CBS discussion about Obama, "the comeback kid")
1. Obama's benefitting from economic "hope"
"A closer look at the numbers shows that voters don't necessarily see much change around them and don't necessarily believe Obama has the right answers on the issues of the day," says Aaron Blake in The Washington Post. What the figures do show is that people believe the economy will pick up, that "people are starting to hope a bit." In the end, "people's views of their president are almost inextricably linked to the economy," and if the economy actually does recover, "that bodes well for Obama."
2. This is just a temporary "tragedy bump"
Obama is enjoying a post–Tucson shooting "tragedy bump, to be expected following such a horrific event, and the sensational media coverage," says Donald Douglas in American Power. Bill Clinton got a similar poll boost (ultimately short-lived) after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Besides, the same Obama-friendly poll makes it clear that the public isn't buying the media's "blame-righty campaign" regarding Tucson, so there's no big leftward shift in the electorate.
3. Americans are "warming" to Obama
"Obama does get glowing marks for his Tucson speech and his overall treatment of the incident," says Mark Blumenthal in The Huffington Post, "but the data we have so far shows that most of the bump took place before the Tucson shootings" — and after, adds Andrew Sullivan in The Atlantic, Obama's big accomplishments in the lame duck Congress. The polls show that "Americans are warming to him," and trust him more than the GOP on all major issues but health care, where they're tied. At this point, the "Obama bump" feels "real enough," and potentially enduring.
4. Obama is gaining while the Tea Party's influence wanes
It's important to note that Obama's approval ratings haven't been this high since July 2009, when "Tea Party zealots started disrupting Democrats' town halls over health care reform and carrying guns to Obama rallies," says Joan Walsh in Salon. After the midterms, the "Just Say No"/Tea Party wing of the GOP started crumbling. Maybe "Sarah Palin's political meltdown [is] helping Obama," but surely his success getting some Republicans to say "yes" in the lame duck session shows that "when he can pick off some GOP support and get things done, his support climbs."
5. A combination of factors have fueled the "rebound"
Obama is enjoying the fruits of the "slightly less terrible" economy and the overwhelmingly positive response to his handling of the Tucson shooting, says Adam Serwer in The American Prospect. But the polling "rebound" doesn't mean he's "headed for a cakewalk in 2012," or that he's doomed. "Poll results are fun (for some of us, anyway), but we have a tendency to over-interpret them," and nobody knows what Obama's numbers will look like even a month from now, much less in November 2012.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Ted Cruz is the new Sarah Palin
- Watch out, China — America is working on dogfighting drones
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- How the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover revealed the worst of both shows
- Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Why America won't have enough money to battle ISIS
- Fall film guide: All the movies you should see in October
Subscribe to the Week