Obama, Mr. Popular

For as much as the Beltway is focused on the Republican nomination fight—and whether Mitt Romney prevails through conservative hostility—the other story of this year, so far, is President Barack Obama’s growing popularity with the public. Last week, in the latest poll from The Washington Post and ABC News, Obama broke 50 percent for the first time since last spring. Of course, you need more than a single survey to establish a trend, and the numbers for Obama were so positive that last week’s poll could have been an outlier. But a recent succession of polls has shown the president with a consistently positive approval rating, and the current average from Real Clear Politics shows Obama in the black for the first time since last year:

Moreover, a declining percentage of the country says that the country is moving in the wrong direction. In RCP’s latest average, 30.3 percent of Americans say the country is moving in the right direction, while 62 percent say we’re on the wrong track. Six months ago, upward of 80 percent of the public said that we were on the wrong track.

None of this is to say that President Obama isn’t in a precarious position; his approval ratings are largely a factor of the economy, and if conditions decline as a result of trouble in Europe or missteps at home—these gains could fall by the wayside. But for now, the economy seems to be on the upswing, and President Obama is the direct beneficiary.

This trend seems like it goes a long way toward explaining the GOP’s recent decision to re-embrace the culture wars. Between Obama’s growing popularity, the lackluster performance of Mitt Romney, and the newfound prominence of Rick Santorum, Republicans are worried for their chances. And as we’ve seen for the last decade, there’s no better way to shore up the base than with an attack on the “undeserving”—in this case, women.

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