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Obama Approval Confounds Pundits

By Dan Froomkin
12:35 PM ET, 04/ 7/2009

Even Washington's pundit class is finding it has no choice but to acknowledge that, despite everything, President Obama is as popular as ever. Consider the latest data.

CBS News reports: "As President Obama concludes his well-publicized trip to Europe, Americans are more positive about the respect accorded to a U.S. president than they have been in years, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.

"Sixty-seven percent say world leaders respect Mr. Obama, while 18 percent say they do not respect the president. That's a sharp contrast to the response when this question was asked about Mr. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, in July 2006: Just 30 percent then said the president is respected by the leaders of other countries.

"Mr. Obama's overall approval rating, meanwhile, has hit a new high of 66 percent, up from 64 percent last month. His disapproval rating stands at 24 percent. Nearly all Democrats and most independents approve of the way the president is handling his job, while only 31 percent of Republicans approve."

Meanwhile, Alexander Mooney writes for CNN: "As he wraps up a week-long trip abroad that drew positive headlines across Europe, President Barack Obama's approval rating remains high at home, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Monday.

"Obama draws a 66 percent approval rating in the latest CNN poll, a number that has remained statistically unchanged over the last month."

In the New York Times, Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee-Brenan marvel: "These sometimes turbulent weeks — marked by new initiatives by Mr. Obama, attacks by Republicans and more than a few missteps by the White House — do not appear to have hurt the president. Americans said they approved of Mr. Obama's handling of the economy, foreign policy, Iraq and Afghanistan; fully two-thirds said they approved of his overall job performance.

"By contrast, just 31 percent of respondents said they had a favorable view of the Republican Party, the lowest in the 25 years the question has been asked in New York Times/CBS News polls.

"It is not unusual for new presidents to enjoy a period of public support. Still, the durability of Mr. Obama's support contrasts with that of some of his predecessors at the same point in their terms. It is also striking at a time when anxiety has gripped households across the country and Mr. Obama has alternately sought to rally Americans' spirits and warn against economic collapse as he seeks Congressional support for his programs."

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz writes: "If you read the press or watch talk TV, you've learned that Obama is trying to do too much, has ticked off his own party, mishandled AIG, thinks he can run GM, is pushing socialism, is taking over the whole economy, and by the way, Afghanistan is his Vietnam.

"Well, much of the public doesn't seem to agree."

Kurtz chalks this up to Obama's sheer "political talent" and "the power of political levitation."

Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard thinks Obama has the public bamboozled: "President Obama is the master of misdirection. His skill in using this tactic is a key to his success as a candidate and to his popularity as president. He is a great salesman, marketing his product--the liberal agenda, plus a few add-ons--in a manner that disguises what he's really up to."

What's your explanation for Obama's continued popularity? Comments are open!

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