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Jim GallowayJim Galloway

Barack Obama’s rising popularity: The GOP contest may be making him look better

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President Barack Obama speaks at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit on Tuesday in downtown Atlanta. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

President Barack Obama speaks at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit on Tuesday in downtown Atlanta. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

A loose President Barack Obama is in downtown Atlanta right now, talking about heroin addiction and prescription drug abuse. You can watch it here:

Not wholly by coincidence, Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz sends this note about Obama’s rising popularity, as measured by the Gallup organization:

All the noise being made by the presidential campaign, especially by the Republican campaign, has taken attention away from what may turn out to be more significant for the general election—Barack Obama’s rising approval rating.

Obama’s weekly approval rating in the Gallup tracking poll (I ignore the daily fluctuations which are largely meaningless) has risen to its highest level in many months—53 percent approval vs. 44 percent disapproval for the past week.

This is potentially very significant for the November election, because much research — including my own — has found that the president’s approval rating is a key predictor of the election results even when the president is not on the ballot.  Thus a very unpopular George W. Bush probably doomed John McCain to defeat in 2008 no matter what happened during the campaign that year.

A 53-44 approval-disapproval balance would give Democrats a good shot at keeping the White House even if they were not running against a badly divided Republican Party led by perhaps the most unpopular nominee in decades.

So why has Obama’s approval rating been rising recently?  Several factors may be involved including an improving economy but one of the most important well be the GOP presidential campaign.  The more voters see of the leading GOP candidates, the better Obama looks.  Along these lines, it is probably not a coincidence that there has been an especially large jump in Obama’s approval rating among women which now stands at 58 percent.

Meanwhile, Gov. Nathan Deal is batting .500 with the president today. On the plane ride down, White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked about Deal’s veto of HB 757, the “religious liberty” bill:

“The president comes down on the side of fairness and equality and opposing discrimination in all its forms every time. It’s the president’s strong view that we can take all the necessary steps to protect religious freedom without giving people the approval to discriminate against people because of who they love.”

But Obama did needle the governor about Georgia’s failure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act: