Trying to Explain the Obama Bump

If you haven’t noticed lately, President Obama’s sporting a bump in the polls.

RealClearPolitics averages him at about 43 percent approval once all major survey indices are aggregated. Folks, especially on the Democratic side, are getting a bit tickled about it – but, hold up: he was just a percentage point lower this time last year when looking at the averages. But, it’s those big ticket trackers like Gallup, CNN and NBC News that are clocking him in 48 percent in the past week. And when a closet Republican outfit like Rasmussen steps in with a 49 percent approval rating then it’s safe for prognosticators to assume there’s a disturbance in the Force.

It’s a fascinating thing to watch since, well … wasn’t this, like, the guy so unliked and unfriended that Democratic candidates in critical Senate contests didn’t even want him showing up to the cookouts? No one wanted him kissing their baby on the stump, so he seemed to shrug and walk it off in aimless political exile as Democrats disintegrated into electoral nothiness during the midterms.

Now he’s vacationing in Hawaii with an emerging ‘how you like me now?’ swag that`s got some pretty smart people like neuroscientist turned polling hobbyist Sam Wang scratching their heads. Here’s Wang at Princeton Election Consortium:

To identify possible causes we should look to events prior to the jump. The obvious event is the president’s newfound liberation from the pressures of the election cycle. Since the November election,the president has done the opposite of what many people expected: He showed strong assertiveness to Congress, acted boldly on immigration, made frank public statements on race, and normalized relations with Cuba.

I don’t know about “frank public statements on race,” but we’ll save that for another bat time, bat blog. But Wang is right: it is as if President Obama woke up one morning and had a George Costanza-like epiphany where he decided to do the exact opposite of everything he’d been doing politically up to that point.

Wang’s conclusion on this:

If this “real Obama” uptick lasts, it might demonstrate a benefit to Democrats that if they act, with vigor, like Democrats.

Or, it might just say that POTUS is at his best when the political landscape is all about POTUS. He doesn’t do well navigating through midterm electoral weather systems that have so much to do with him but don’t have that much to do with him because his name isn’t on the ballot. Either it’s him, personally, or it’s his operation. President Obama didn’t express or portray himself to voters pre-midterm election as a decisive leader because he had an overcrowded campaign cycle to compete with. Now that we’re in the last stretch, it’ll be him versus the Republicans. Just the type of environment he thrives in.

Charles Ellison

Charles Ellison is Politics Contributor for theRoot.com and Washington Correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune. He can be reached via Twitter @ellisonreport