- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2015

President Obama’s approval ratings have spiked over the past two months, recovering from an election-season low as he’s made inroads with independents, won back key allies such as ardent liberals and Hispanics and has even earned something of a sympathy vote, political analysts say.

Mr. Obama’s approval rating has hovered around 47 percent for the last six weeks, according to Gallup polling data that show a marked improvement from the low 40s, where he spent virtually all of 2014.

Perhaps the biggest boost comes courtesy of the rebounding economy, which has proved key to helping the president win back independent voters who had soured on his performance last year. About 41 percent of independent voters now say they approve of Mr. Obama’s handling of economic issues. In November, just 24 percent approved, surveys show.

Liberals also have jumped back on the bandwagon as Mr. Obama gears up for a two-year fight with Republicans who now control both the House and Senate. Seventy-seven percent of liberals now approve of Mr. Obama’s performance, compared with 67 percent in early November, according to Gallup.

But analysts say the reasons for the rebound are complex and include indifference toward the lame-duck president.

“Some of the Democrats have returned to the fold. But I also think there’s another interesting phenomenon,” said Lara Brown, a political science professor at George Washington University. “The president is going to become irrelevant … the energy and intensity that people put on judging the president — either for or against — will literally start to move on to the [2016] candidates. So there will be this increasing irrelevance and indifference, and usually how it shows up is some level of sympathy, or recovery” in the polls.

There are signs that the president’s recovery in the polls is limited in its scope.

For example, the bounce hasn’t extended to key swing states such as Iowa, Virginia and Colorado, where Mr. Obama’s approval ratings are below the national average, a Quinnipiac survey released Thursday shows.

Still, Mr. Obama remains far ahead of his predecessor, George W. Bush, whose approval rating was 37 percent at this point in his tenure.

Within Mr. Obama’s larger recovery in the polls are better marks on several specific issues such as foreign policy — an improvement that even has extended to Republicans.

In November, just 7 percent of Republicans approved of the president’s performance on national security. That number now stands at 12 percent, according to Gallup.

The president’s overall approval rating on national security now is 36 percent, up from last fall’s low 30s when Mr. Obama admittedly was struggling to develop a strategy to defeat the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria.

But perhaps the most notable jump has come among Hispanic voters, a key voting bloc that helped propel Mr. Obama to the Oval Office in 2008 and secured his reelection in 2012.

Last year’s executive action on immigration, despite its murky legal future, has had a dramatic impact on the president’s approval ratings. About 65 percent of Hispanics now approve of Mr. Obama’s job performance, compared to just 49 percent in early November, before the president announced he would half deportations for millions of illegal immigrants, according to Gallup figures.

Specialists say that number could begin to trend downward if it becomes clear Mr. Obama’s actions will not be implemented.

A federal judge this week halted the president’s amnesty move, saying Mr. Obama had overstepped his bounds in attempting to grant legal status and benefits to millions of illegal immigrants.

While Mr. Obama’s poll numbers hit a record a low during the week of last November’s midterm elections, the president argues his specific policies weren’t to blame.

He contends that voters punished Democrats at the ballot box last November not because they disapproved of the administration’s handling of the economy, its foreign policy or any other specific issues. Instead, he said Democrats flamed out in the midterms because of voter apathy and general frustration with government.

“We had a very challenging midterm, despite good news, in part because two-thirds almost of eligible voters didn’t vote,” Mr. Obama said at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser last week. “And part of the challenge is that people have felt so cynical about government for so long, and the gridlock in Washington has been so fierce, that at a certain point, people just opt out.”

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