SIGNS OF ECONOMIC OPTIMISM…. The economy has a ways to go before it can be characterized as “strong.” For that matter, there’s an economic recovery underway, but it’s a stretch to call it “robust.”


But after a brutal Great Recession, the economy is growing again. The monthly job totals finally got their head above water. Income and spending are increasing slowly but steadily. It’s not too big a surprise, then, that a new CBS News/New York Times poll shows Americans starting to feel better about the direction of the economy.

The poll shows 41% of Americans believing the economy is improving — up eight points from last month, and the highest it’s been since the start of the recession in late 2007. Just 15% believe it’s getting worse, which is a recession-era low.

Similarly, President Obama has seen a bump in those approving of his handling of the economy.

Economic optimism has real-world consequences. If people are feeling better about their economic future, employers might be more inclined to add new workers, consumers might be more likely to make major purchases, etc.

And, of course, there are political considerations. We talked back in February about Karl Rove, the National Review, and others starting to express some anxiety about the economy — if conditions improved, Republicans might be less able to exploit economic anxieties in this year’s midterm elections.

Keep an eye on this dynamic, because it’s likely to get more intense. The better the economic conditions, and the more confident the public feels, the more we’ll see Republicans feeling antsy. Good news for the country is bad news for their campaign strategy.

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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.