Yesterday the Washington Post released some new poll data suggesting that Obama is on the rebound. While it found that Obama’s economic disapproval numbers are still high, it also showed he holds a 15 point advantage over Republicans on helping the middle class, and a 17 point edge among independents on the traditional GOP signature issue of taxes.

It would be premature to place too much stock in one poll. But CNN has just released a new survey with equally striking findings — ones that suggest that Obama’s new populist offensive, including the pressure on Republicans over the payroll tax cut, is working, and winning back middle class voters in big numbers:

According to the survey, 49% of Americans approve of the job Obama’s doing in the White House, up five points from last month, with 48% saying they disapprove, down six points from mid-November. The 49% approval rating is the president’s highest since May, when his number hit 54% thanks to a bounce following the killing of Osama bin Laden. Since then, in CNN polling, Obama’s approval rating has hovered in the mid-40s.
“President Barack Obama’s approval rating appears to be fueled by dramatic gains among middle-income Americans,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “The data suggest that the debate over the payroll tax is helping Obama’s efforts to portray himself as the defender of the middle class.”
Obama’s gains have come at the expense of the Republicans in Congress and the GOP in general. By a 50% to 31% margin, people questioned say they have more confidence in the president than in congressional Republicans to handle the major issues facing the country. Obama held a much narrower 44% to 39% margin in March.

That's a net swing of 14 points in the percentage of Americans who trust Obama over Congressional Republicans to handle the major issues in this country.

A dip into the internals shows that these numbers are equally pronounced among independents and moderates. Although independents narrowly disapprove of Obama, 44-51, he holds a 19 point lead, 47-28, when he is compared to Congressional Republicans on who is more trusted to handle major issues. Among moderates, Obama holds a 27 point lead, 52-25.

This suggests current GOP conduct is paying big dividends to Obama. And in a sane universe, these numbers would put to rest the nonstop talk about how Obama’s emphasis on inequality, Wall Street lack of accountability, economic fairness and the need for the rich to pay more in taxes is only about playing to the Dem base, and risks alienating the “class warfare” averse middle of the country.

Yesterday, writing about the Post poll, the Post polling team concluded: “The White House’s shift in tactics in recent months to adopt a more populist tone and to challenge Republicans aggressively over taxes and income disparities may be shifting the national political landscape back to Obama’s favor.” These CNN numbers showing Obama’s advantage over the GOP among moderates, independents, and middle class voters would seem to suggest the same.

It’s obviously hard to gauge how these numbers will impact Obama’s reelection chances. His numbers on the economy are still poor, and the big unknown remains whether voters will see his reelection campaign as a referendum on the state of the economy come Election Day 2012, rather than on his intentions, values, priorities and superiority over the GOP on issues affecting the middle class. But you can bet Team Obama will look at these numbers and see them as a clear sign that they should stick with their current course.