Columnist

Some presidential polls indicate that the primaries have taken a toll on GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s standing with Latinos and women. This could force him to work harder than expected on the old Etch a Sketch as the general election approaches.

But polls can have multiple interpretations. For example, President Obama’s job approval/disapproval numbers seem to be trending in his direction. So maybe it means that voters in general are moving his way?

Maybe. Or maybe not.

A poll last month by CNN/ORC International asked whether people approved or disapproved of Obama’s handling of his job. It showed Obama had pushed his approval rating up to 51 percent. Some 45 percent disapproved.

That’s a huge shift from his numbers back in August, when the same pollsters found that only 44 percent approved and 54 percent disapproved.

Because of the improving economy or the GOP primaries? Possibly.

But the pollsters asked a follow-up question:

“1a. (IF DISAPPROVE) Do you disapprove because you think his policies and actions since he became president have been too liberal, or because you think his policies and actions have not been liberal enough?”

Those who disapproved because he was too liberal (35 percent) were virtually the same in August (36 percent) and March (35 percent).

What changed was the number who disapproved because they thought he was not liberal enough (the single-payer advocates and assorted liberals).

That number dropped dramatically, from 16 percent in August to 8 percent in March, accounting for virtually all of Obama’s improved numbers.

So maybe some of what’s happening is that liberal Democrats are drifting back to the Democratic base?

In which case, Romney can forget the Etch a Sketch and just call Ralph Nader or someone to siphon off the libs.

The influence Derby

Get your fancy hats and mint-julep glasses ready — the Kentucy Derby is approaching faster than a galloping thoroughbred, and you might miss the chance to witness the horseflesh parade in the presence of Sen. David Vitter.

The Louisiana Republican is available for mixing and mingling during the May 4-5 Derby weekend — for a price. An invite for a fundraiser benefiting his political action committee went out last week, urging attendees to reserve their spots quickly, since there were only a few tickets left.

We can understand why it’s such a hot ticket. A mere $5,000 gets a lucky couple clubhouse-level seats at the races, plus access to “hospitality areas.” Better hope they’re serving top-shelf bourbon. And the crown jewel of the weekend is the “Derby Dinner” with Vitter himself in downtown Louisville.

But wait, the price doesn’t include transportation or lodging, so we’re talking an even pricier getaway.

Talk about having to pony up.

Missed wave in Burma

And now, the Loop Campaign Guru of the Week Award. This one goes to Burmese presidential adviser Ko Ko Hlaing.

A Washington Post article earlier this week about the sweeping victory of Burmese democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi in last weekend’s election was headlined: “Burmese government says it was surprised by scale of Suu Kyi victory”.

Hlaing was quoted as saying: “I could guess that the NLD [Suu Kyi’s party] would take the lion’s share in these elections, but I didn’t expect this much of a landslide victory for them.”

So, let’s see. We have the daughter of Burma’s George Washington, independence hero Aung San. She wins the 1990 elections, only to be put under house arrest for 15 out of the next 20 years. This makes her something like the Nelson Mandela of Burma.

So now we have a party headed by a combination of George Washington and Nelson Mandela, and someone who’s wildly popular in her own right, running in the elections.

And Hlaing didn’t expect a landslide? He wins this week’s Campaign Guru award hands-down.

(It was suggested we name the award for Mark Penn, former strategist on the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign, but we felt that would be churlish and really unfair.)

On the move

Attorney General Eric Holder has upped Joe Wayland to the position of acting assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division. Wayland, who joined the department in 2010 as the Antitrust Division’s first deputy assistant attorney general for litigation, replaces Sharis Pozen, who is leaving the post next month.

Elsewhere, Jonas Kieffer is leaving the administration for the West Wing — West Wing Writers group, that is. Kieffer, who is director of speechwriting at the Transportation Department, will be a principal in the firm.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter:@InTheLoopWP