President Obama is recovering from the polling lows he suffered last year — mostly because he has won back the Democrats who were down on him then.
The latest IBD/TIPP poll has Obama's job approval at 46%, the same share giving him the thumbs down. That's up from a 43%-48% spread in November and 40%-48% last August.
February's Presidential Leadership Index rose 1.9 points to 48.6, an eight-month high, though below the neutral 50 level.
What has driven that rise? It's not Republicans, who disapprove 83% now vs. 84% in August, an insignificant shift of just one point.
Nor is it independents. Though they have warmed up to the president, a majority still disapproves, 47%-41%, up from 48%-35% in August. That is a net shift of seven points.
The big shift has come from Democrats. Their approval of Obama has gone from 71%-21% in August to 83%-12% now. That is a net shift of 21 points.
Last year Democrats were frustrated over the seemingly stalled agenda, the lackluster economy and the administration's willingness to deal on extending Bush administration tax cuts. Skits on "Saturday Night Live" portrayed the president as lacking in power.
But Obama has returned to campaign mode, throwing red meat to liberals by adopting Occupy Wall Street's argument on income inequality.
A fight with Congress over extending the payroll tax cut also gave him his first clear-cut political win in a while. And the unemployment rate has fallen to 8.3% from a high of 10% in late 2009.
Other surveys have shown increased support among Democrats for Obama, notes polling analyst Karlyn Bowman, senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. His Osawatomie, Kan., economic speech was seen by many "as a return to his Dem Party roots," she said.
Americans don't think the economy is great. Asked if they expected it to improve or worsen over the next six months, they split at 28% each way. A plurality of 40% expected no change.
But six months ago, 49% expected it to get worse and just 13% were seeing improvement.
That is creating an uphill environment for Republicans seeking to unseat Obama.
"Though a majority wants change, GOP candidates in the next months will have to convince the public they are the right change," said Raghavan Mayur, president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which conducted the poll.
Some 51% favor someone else as president vs. 44% who say Obama deserves a second term. Among independents, it's 56%-38%.
But Obama defeats Mitt Romney 47%-41% in a head-to-head matchup. The incumbent easily defeats ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich, 52%-33%; former Sen. Rick Santorum, 49%-35%; and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, 49%-33%.
Independents actually favor Romney slightly (43%-41%), but the difference is party unity.
In each matchup, Obama gets over 80% of the Democratic vote. Romney rallies just 78% of GOP voters; his rivals fare far worse.
Rank-and-file Republicans are dissatisfied with their choices. But they may unite behind the eventual nominee in the fall.