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Obama rebounds in polls

Heading into tomorrow night's State of the Union address, President Barack Obama is riding a wave of rising approval ratings.

Most polls over the past week show Obama at over a 50 percent approval rating. Real Clear Politics' average of polls (graph above) finds 51.0 percent approve, the President's highest rating since November 2009.

This is quite a turnaround, especially considering all the doom and gloom reported following the November 2010 midterm elections. The consensus appears to be that Obama is benefitting from his compromises on tax cuts, which showed him to be flexible as well as ultimately effective. Some cite improvements in the economy. And some credit the fact that Obama's speech in Tucson went down so well.

All of these factors are true enough. But it is important not to overlook a few others. For one, Obama's approval ratings have never been as bad as they could have been, giving the sluggishness of the recovery. His favorability rating has certainly been far higher than Congress's, which has languished around 18 percent.

More importantly, we shouldn't underestimate the ironic impact of the Republicans' electoral gains in November. Those wins meant that the spotlight shifted to them: they went from being ignored or dismissed by the public, to being listened to and evaluated.  And I think they already have concluded that they're not impressed by the GOP.

It seems almost axiomatic these days that, whichever politician or political group is in the spotlight, the public will quickly conclude they don't like what they see.  And, despite all the "excitement' about the Republican gains, their shine has dulled remarkably fast.  I've said for some time that the best advantage Obama has going for him is the weakness of his opposition. Obama will do well if he manages to keep the Republicans in the line of fire.

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