CONGRESS GETS ANOTHER APPROVAL BOOST…. Low approval ratings for Congress have become so routine, it’s kind of odd to see the legislative branch get a significant boost in the polls, especially in the midst of an economic crisis.


And yet, that’s exactly what has happened lately. After a 12-point increase in a Gallup poll last month, Congress has seen its approval rating get an 8-point bump this month. It would be a real stretch to consider Congress “popular” — its approval rating now stands at 39% — but its current level of support has reached its highest level in more than four years. That’s up from 19% in January.

There’s no real mystery behind the numbers. Self-identified Republicans still hold Congress in low regard (22% approval, up slightly from February), but support among Independents has doubled since January (17% to 34%), and Democrats are especially impressed, with 57% expressing their approval.

The overall 20-point swing for the institution in just two months is the biggest since 9/11.

This almost certainly isn’t what GOP leaders had in mind. The apparent strategy in recent months was to avoid excessive criticism of the popular president, and go after Democratic congressional leaders. Indeed, after the stimulus fight, Boehner, McConnell, and others suggested a public backlash against Congress was inevitable.

At least for now, the opposite seems to be happening.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.