President Obama is surging in polls nine months before Election Day, looking more and more like a favorite to win re-election.
A series of polls released over the last two weeks show Obama near or above 50 percent in head-to-head match-ups with his likely GOP rivals. Perhaps more importantly, the president, who trailed GOP favorite Mitt Romney among the critical bloc of independent voters by 12 points in November, now leads Romney by 9 points among independents, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll.
Buoyed by strong economic news, his approval ratings are their highest since the killing of Osama bin Laden, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. A Gallup survey showed that despite the strong criticism from Catholic bishops and even some Catholic liberals over a controversy last week over contraception, Catholic voters, another key electoral bloc, remain as supportive of the president as they were before.
Obama’s support among black voters, whose enthusiasm about Obama has dipped at times, is back to more than 90 percent.
To be sure, much time remains between now and Election Day. Obama has had weeks to focus on wooing voters in the political center, while Romney and the other GOP candidates target conservative voters in their primary. Some independents will defect back to Romney or whoever is the GOP nominee after that nomination process is settled.
Unemployment, while dropping, remains at a historically high rate. It’s still not clear if voters between the ages of 18-29, who turned out in huge numbers for Obama in 2008 but not for congressional Democrats in 2010, will return this fall. And the contraceptive controversy showed the president will not get unified support even from his own party on some complicated matters.
But for now, the president is in perhaps his strong position politically since 2009. And the Republicans seem aware of this, agreeing Wednesday to a compromise that would extend a reduction in the payroll tax cut and expanded unemployment benefits that some in the GOP had tried to block in December.
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr