The Washington Post

Ending the year on an up note

While we’re all waiting for Iowa polls, I’ll note that President Barack Obama is ending the year on a bit of an upswing. He’s been “upside down” in most polls since June — that is, with those who approve of his job as president trailing those who don’t. But he went right side up in Washington Post/ABC and CNN surveys last week, and now he’s jumped up three points to hit 47/45 on Gallup.

I wouldn’t put all that much weight on any of this. It could easily be a meaningless blip, and he’ll be back in the low 40s in the next set of soundings. Indeed, other polls last week had him a bit lower, so that his pre-Gallup average at Pollster was just 45 percent. Of course, it could also be the first evidence of a real public opinion surge by the president. It’s just too early to make much of it.

What I would say is that it’s a good reminder to everyone that Republican fantasies of an easy election in November are based, so far at least, on wishful thinking, not hard evidence.

There’s certainly a long way to go, but to the extent that we can guess this far in advance, most indicators are pointing to a relatively close race. Which means that all the stuff that matters on the margins — the out-party candidate, campaigns, even eventually the way that votes get translated into the electoral college — could actually be important.

However, as I said, there’s a long time to go. It’s very easy to imagine scenarios in which Obama is reelected easily (say, the hints of good news about the economy in the last few months spark real progress this spring), as well as ones in which Obama is clobbered. At this point, I’m paying a lot more attention to economic indicators as hints to Obama’s fate than I am to either his approval ratings or, certainly, the goings on in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The only thing that I think we can say with some certainty, however, is that Obama surely doesn’t seem likely to strongly underperform on the economy and other objective indicators. I don’t know why that is. It could be that Republicans are unusually unpopular. It could be that people just like the guy. Or it could be that there’s a systematic effect at work in which people really do blame George W. Bush for a large part of the underperforming economy. Whichever it is, it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case that Obama is hurting the Democrats at this point.


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