8 a.m. ET: It's increasingly possible that we will look back and see that August 2009 was this election cycle's height of Republicans' optimism over their political fortunes, and the depth of Democrats' despair.
By the time the midterm elections reach a fever pitch next year, President Obama may well have passed health-care reform, his signature domestic initiative, if not with overwhelming public support then at least with the backing of a solid majority of voters. The now common criticism that he hasn't accomplished anything will have been blunted. And while a high joblessness rate may persist, the narrative will have taken hold that the economy has either recovered or is well on its way.
The scenario above represents Democrats best-case scenario, and no element of it is assured. But the new Washington Post-ABC News poll makes it appear a bit more likely. The survey found "that support for a government-run health-care plan to compete with private insurers has rebounded from its summertime lows and wins clear majority support from the public." While ratings for Obama's handling of health care and the overall reform plans remained roughly the same, the president has regained the support of some Independents. The Fix points out that the poll also contained bad news for Republicans, giving the party low marks for its ability to make good decisions and handing Democrats a 12-point lead on the generic Congressional ballot. (George Stephanopoulos' headline: "New Poll: Public Option Up … GOP Down.")
Other recent surveys tell a similar tale. Pollster.com's generic ballot chart shows a clear trend since late August in Democrats' favor. Obama's job approval rating has ticked up slightly since its summer low, while the percentage of self-identifed Republicans has moved steadily down. The president's rating for his handling of health care, while still low, is climbing, Add to those charts this one, showing the upward march of the stock market since spring, and -- accepting all the necessary caveats -- the ingredients are in place for Democrats to be cautiously optimistic.
Improved poll numbers for the public option come as the idea, "once on life support in the Senate, is making a recovery among Democrats writing health-care legislation," the Wall Street Journal reports. The chances that the chamber will include some form of public-option compromise -- most likely a trigger or state-based pilot program -- are on the rise, and the House is all but certain to include a public plan in its bill. The New Republic's panel of judges, all supporters of reform, encourages Harry Reid to include much of the Senate HELP Committee's plan in the final bill, deeming it better than the Finance Committee measure. The White House is stepping up its involvement in drumming up support for reform, USA Today writes, publicly prodding wavering members of Congress and encouraging grassroots activism around the country.
If there is one obvious issue that could halt Obama and his fellow Democrats' rising political stock, it's Afghanistan. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found that "a slight majority of Americans think that the war in Afghanistan is turning into another Vietnam" and "nearly six in 10 oppose sending more U.S. troops to the conflict." At least the White House can take heart that Hamid Karzai "appears set to concede as early as Tuesday that he fell short of a first-round victory in the nation’s disputed presidential election," the New York Times writes, "but the path to ensuring that the country has credible leadership remains uncertain." The Washington Post reports that a U.N. investigation stripped Karzai of nearly a third of the votes initially tallied in his favor, and that Obama administration officials were "palpably relieved" by the "apparent breakthrough in tense negotiations with Karzai." The Associated Press says Karzai could accept a runoff election, or he could try to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with the No. 2 finisher.
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