From the latest issue of TIME by Mark Halperin:
What has caused Obama’s poll numbers to rise?
The President’s approval ratings have jumped from the mid-40s to over 50% since the midterm elections untethered him from congressional Democrats and Nancy Pelosi. Casting himself as a forthright, postpartisan problem solver in the mold of his 2004 Democratic Convention speech, Obama has pushed through major legislation, remade his staff and reached out to a business community that had all but given up on him. He’s also dropped the public peevishness and sarcasm that made much of the country forget why they liked the guy in the first place.
Did the State of the Union help his momentum?
Absolutely. The new/old Obama on display in his annual address borrowed from the best of his predecessors. From Ronald Reagan there were upbeat American success stories. From Bill Clinton there was cross-aisle outreach, including a cheerful openness to medical-malpractice reform, nuclear power and changes to his cherished health care law. And from George W. Bush came a confidence that if a President says what he means and means what he says, he can’t go wrong.
Do Republicans have a push-back strategy?
Not yet. The GOP is offering nothing on the public’s Issue One (jobs), while Obama is calling for spending on construction, education and energy. Republicans won in November by critiquing Democrats on Issue Two (the deficit), but Obama has laid a trap. Now that the GOP is running the House, it must deliver the superlean budget it promised without angering Tea Party passionistas who reject compromise with the White House. Obama is using his renewed strength to box the Republicans in.