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Obama on the Upswing

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Good news for President Obama: A new Washington Post-ABC News poll has him leading presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, 51-45 percent, in a hypothetical general election matchup. What's more, 52 percent of Americans believe Obama understands the country's economic problems, compared to only 32 percent for Romney, whose presidential bid rests on the idea that he, and not Obama, has the know-how to get the economy humming again. Still worse for Romney, by a ratio of 2 to 1 Americans say the more they learn about the GOP frontrunner, the less they like him. Obama’s overall approval rating stands at 50 percent, its highest level in this poll since just after Osama bin Laden was killed in early May, although 46 percent disapprove of his performance. And these numbers don't even factor in Friday's impressive jobs report, which augur well for Obama's reelection chances. The president cautiously acknowledged progress in an interview Sunday with NBC's Matt Lauer. "I deserve a second term, but we’re not done." [Washington Post, Washington Post]

In other campaign news:

Romney has the Big Mo. His last two victories – in Florida's primary and Nevada's caucus – provide powerful momentum for his campaign and prove that he has "begun to coalesce support among voters who once appeared especially determined to find a more-conservative alternative." The Romney camp hopes to parlay these early successes into big wins on "Super Tuesday," March 6, when voters in 11 states will cast ballots. [Wall Street Journal]

• Trump claims credit for Romney's Nevada win. In the weeks leading up to Nevada's caucuses, Romney held a decisive lead over his rivals, but according to the Donald it was his February 2 endorsement of the former Massachusetts governor that made all the difference. "There was a lot riding on that particular race in Nevada and it was interesting, because the numbers were much, much greater than you thought," Trump said during a Fox News appearance Monday. "And a lot of people are giving me credit for that." [Huffington Post]

• Newt Gingrich is beginning to look like the Mike Huckabee of 2012, right down to the sharp sound bytes, anti-establishment appeal, and ... insufficient money and organization. Huckabee, like Gingrich, saw success in early Republican primaries, but quickly faded. [Politico]

• Romney needs to address his Mormon religion head-on, writes noted religion scholar Randall Balmer in the New Republic. The candidate has handled the issue awkwardly so far, coming off evasive when he could use his faith to great advantage. Romney, says Ballmer, is missing an opportunity to discuss "how he understands [Mormon] theology, how his faith informs the way he lives, his sense of responsibility toward others and how that might affect the way he governs." Then he could put the religion issue to rest once and for all. [The New Republic]

Newt Gingrich is helping Obama way more than he's hurting Mitt Romney, Harold Meyerson argues in the American Prospect. Gingrich's "Tampa or bust" attitude – his stubborn insistence on running his campaign until the Republican nomination convention – benefits the president by delaying and complicating Romney's inevitable pivot to the center. "The longer the contest continues," Meyerson writes, "the later, and more awkward, Romney’s re-moderatificaion will be," giving Obama a head start with independent voters. [American Prospect]

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