- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2011

President Obama’s job-approval rating has improved in several polls released this week, coinciding with his push for policies that he says will help the middle class.

A CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday showed Mr. Obama’s approval rating at 49 percent, a jump of 5 percentage points from a month ago.

Forty-eight percent of those surveyed disapprove of the way the president is handling his job, the first time since May that more people approve than disapprove of his performance in the poll.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found Mr. Obama’s job-approval rating at its highest point since March - 49 percent. In that survey, 47 percent of respondents disapprove of his overall job performance.

And when the Post-ABC poll asked who does a better job “protecting the middle class,” 50 percent said they trust Mr. Obama, compared with 35 percent for Republicans. That was a significant shift from one month ago, when both sides were about even on the question.

Presidential spokesman Jay Carney said the polls reflect Mr. Obama’s commitment to improving the economy.

Since Labor Day, the president has been pressing Congress to approve portions of his $447 billion jobs package that would devote more spending for building infrastructure, for hiring teachers and for extending unemployment benefits.

“In the last several months, that focus has been pretty clear,” Mr. Carney said. “It is his primary focus as president.”

But a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee said the “right track, wrong track” polling numbers tell a different story for Mr. Obama in most surveys.

“The most important poll number is that roughly 70 percent of our country believes America is headed in the wrong direction under the leadership of Barack Obama,” said RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. “After three years of policies that have left us with high unemployment and record debt, it is clear Obama is making it worse - not better, as he promised.”

While Mr. Obama’s position has improved in the past month, a poll released Monday by the bipartisan firm Purple Strategies of Alexandria showed that he “still falls short of his re-election goals” in a dozen battleground states.

Mr. Obama showed “marginal improvements” in the survey against both former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the past month, said pollster Doug Usher. The president opened up a lead of 47 percent to 43 percent over Mr. Romney in the 12 swing states; they were tied at 45 percent a month ago.

Against Mr. Gingrich, the president now leads by six points, 48 percent to 42 percent, compared with only a two-point lead a month ago in the Purple Poll.

“Across the purple states, the race remains tight, with President Obama improving since the inaugural Purple Poll in September,” said Steve McMahon, founding partner of Purple Strategies. “According to December’s poll, Obama ranks slightly better against Gingrich than he does against Romney in these pivotal swing states.”

The poll is conducted in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The Purple Poll also added former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to the GOP mix of presidential candidates. The survey found Mr. Bush, who has insisted he’s not running, “well liked” in the swing states with a 49 percent favorable rating.

Mr. Bush also had the lowest unfavorable rating among GOP swing-state voters - 26 percent, nine points lower than Mr. Gingrich and 12 points lower than Mr. Romney.

“Jeb Bush has lower unfavorable ratings than actual candidates such as Romney and Gingrich,” said Bruce Haynes, managing partner of Purple Strategies. “The primary is clearly taking a toll on voters’ views of the GOP field, and the winner will have to recover while facing a fusillade of attacks from the president’s campaign. So while the president has some work to do on his own fundamentals, the GOP nominee still has a difficult path to the White House.”

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