Mr. Popularity

MR. POPULARITY…. Some on the right will no doubt be pleased to learn that Dick Cheney isn’t quite as unpopular as he used to be. They probably shouldn’t get too excited, though.

As Dick Cheney prepares to give a major speech on the battle against terrorism, a new national poll suggests that favorable opinions of the former vice president are on the rise.

But the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, released Wednesday morning, indicates that a majority of Americans still have an unfavorable opinion of Cheney.

Fifty-five percent of people questioned in the poll say they have an unfavorable opinion of the former vice president. Thirty-seven percent say they have a favorable opinion of Cheney, up eight points from January when he left office.

Has Cheney’s anti-Obama public-relations offensive given him a poll boost? It doesn’t look like it — the same CNN poll showed George W. Bush getting a similar increase, and he’s kept a very low profile. It seems more likely that some of the emotional reactions to the former administration have faded a bit now that they’re out of office, with some conservatives having a more favorable opinion with hindsight.

So, with his 35% favorable opinion, does that mean Cheney is no longer politically radioactive? Republicans shouldn’t count on it. For one thing, the former vice president, despite the recent increase, is still slightly less popular among Americans than Fidel Castro’s Cuba and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. For another, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is encouraging candidates to “press GOP candidates to take a stand on whether they want Dick Cheney to campaign for them.” It doesn’t sound like the Democratic leadership is especially worried about Cheney’s budding popularity.

As for the rest of the CNN poll, it also found that 63% believe President Obama’s policies will “move the country in the right direction.” The number for Republicans was 39%.

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Steve Benen

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.