Obama Pulls Ahead

At the moment, this is President Barack Obama’s situation: The economy has seen two consecutive months of good job growth, with 200,000 jobs added in December and 234,000 in January. What’s more, Obama has adopted more populist rhetoric, with an emphasis on tax hikes for the wealthy that will make them pay their “fair share.” The stronger economy has made the president’s message that much more potent and has significantly improved his standing with the public. If there’s anything that will guarantee goodwill for an incumbent president, it’s economic growth. The economy doesn’t have to be objectively good, but as long as it's getting visibly better, any president can count on support for his message and voter approval.

According to the latest poll from The Washington Post and ABC News, 50 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s job performance, the most since last spring, when he received a temporary bump for the killing of Osama bin Laden. On the other end, Mitt Romney—the presumptive Republican nominee—has seen his standing decline to the point where, in a head-to-head matchup, Obama leads 51 to 45. Indeed, more than half of Americans—52 percent—say that the more they learn of Romney, the less they like him. This is in line with Romney’s precipitous drop in favorability since the Republican elections began in January. As of last week, 31 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Romney, compared to the 47 percent who aren’t too keen on the former Massachusetts governor.

By the time the general election comes around, however, we should expect Romney to recover a little; that’s what happens when you’re the official nominee and have a party to rally around you. But if the economy continues to improve, Obama will have a supportive party and a supportive public. In which case—barring anything catastrophic—his re-election is a good bet.