After a tough six months which culminated in Republicans taking control of the US House and picking up Senate seats in the 2010 election, many started to ask if President Barack Obama was destined to be a one termer, but something interesting has happened. Instead of crushing Obama the defeat has resurrected him, and according to the new NBC/WSJ survey, Obama is at his most popular point since May.
The NBC News/WSJ survey revealed that for the first time in six months Obama’s job approval rating is not a net negative. At 47% approval and 47% disapproval, Obama continues to hover closely towards the magic 50% approval rating. America still personally likes Obama. His personal approval rating is at a net plus 10 points, 49%-39%. Obama’s personal approval rating is higher than the Democratic Party (40%), the Republican Party (34%), the Tea Party (30%), and congressional leaders John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid.
The survey also dealt a blow to the idea the 2010 election was a referendum on Barack Obama and his policies. Only 17% of those surveyed said that their vote was cast against the policies of the last two years. A whopping 68% said their vote was cast in the hope of changing some things over the next two years. Even the people who voted for the Republican in their district claimed that their vote was against the Democratic candidate (20%) more than it was a vote against Obama (15%). However, voters aren’t expecting great changes with Republicans in control of the House, as 73% of respondents expected either some change or very little change after the 2010 election.
A majority of respondents wanted to see Democrats and Republicans compromise (47%), but 76% expected a period of division and little willingness to compromise. Sixty seven percent believed that Obama was likely or somewhat likely to work with congressional Republicans, but 53% believed that it was not too likely or not likely at all that Republicans will work with Obama.
The change that people want to see most is an improved economy. While Obama still polls at a net negative 12% on his handling of the economy, optimism that the economy will get better is at its highest point since May, (37%), and 60% believe that the worst of the recession is behind us. Far from being dead and buried, Obama is enjoying a revival. His years of messaging about compromise and working with Republicans, which is something that almost everyone who supported him has complained about at one time or another, is resonating with an electorate that is craving bipartisan compromise.
This notion may strike some as odd, but Obama finds himself in a better political position now that governmental power has been split than he was when Democrats controlled all of Congress. It is becoming apparent that the 2010 election was not a referendum on Obama, but instead a desperation move by an electorate beaten down by years of economic struggles. Voters still like Obama, but when Democrats failed to address the unemployment situation, they paid the price at the polls.
Americans want Democrats and Republicans to work together and they expect Obama to keep extending a hand to the Republicans. The pressure is now on the GOP to find ways to work with Obama. If they continue their agenda of obstruction, even though the electorate isn’t expecting much compromise, they will be held accountable in 2012. The economy is the only issue holding Obama back, and if voters’ expectations are met that the worst really is over, they will happily go to the polls and reelect Barack Obama.
Much like Bill Clinton in 1994, what was supposed to be a crushing defeat is being turned into a rebirth for an American president. Obama now has a new Congress and a clean slate. The partisans on the left and right are already howling about a potential compromise on tax cuts, but it is this very kind of compromise that the American people want to see. While Republicans keep straying to the right, Obama and his message of bi-partisanship have their finger on the pulse of what moderate America wants. As illogical as it might sound, by suffering a defeat in 2010, Obama is in a better position to win reelection in 2012. Barack Obama is one economic recovery away from his political resurrection being complete.