President Barack Obama launched his latest cross-country trawl for campaign cash Wednesday at an auspicious moment — as his approval rating hit the crucial 50 percent barrier in two new polls.
There were also signs that strengthening jobs growth and a quickening recovery were improving his standing in several key states the president will need to capture if he is to win reelection in November.
While the news is not all good for Obama — his economic management still gets low marks from voters — the poll and other recent surveys suggest prospective Republican challengers are less popular than the president.
A New York Times/CBS News poll pegged Obama’s job rating at exactly 50 percent — a key point, as history shows presidents at that level have a much higher change of reelection than those struggling to reach the plateau.
A CNN/ORC poll had Obama at an identical 50 percent approval rating.
Obama reached the magic threshold nearly two weeks after the release of latest unemployment data which showed that the jobless rate dipped to 8.3 percent in January, the best mark since the start of his presidency.
The stock market has been booming and the latest data on the US manufacturing sector on Wednesday showed companies picking up the pace, all of which are likely contributing to improving voter sentiment.
Yet despite upbeat news, the White House has warned that one good set of economic indicators is not conclusive, and there is concern that the economy could slow or the jobless rate could rise as the election draws closer.
And outside shocks, like a worsening European debt crisis or a military confrontation with Iran, which could send oil prices soaring and hit economic and jobs growth, have the potential to darken Obama’s prospects of reelection.
The Times/CBS poll also contains encouraging news for the president as he plots matchups with potential opponents.
Mitt Romney comes the closest of Obama’s possible general election foes to beating him, trailing the president by 48 to 42 percent.
Obama meanwhile leads surging Republican candidate Rick Santorum by 49 percent to 41 percent.
However, there were warning signs for Obama in the survey. Fifty percent of those asked said that they still disapproved of his management of the economy, compared to 44 percent who approved.
The trend line however, appears to be working in the president’s favor: in December last year, 60 percent disapproved of Obama’s economic management.
In key midwestern industrial states hit hard by the economic crisis, Obama also appears to be in better shape, according to several new polls.
In a new Quinnipiac University poll of Ohio released on Wednesday, he led Romney by two percentage points, 46 percent to 44 percent.
And in a new Public Policy Polling survey of Michigan, Romney’s native state, Obama led the Republican front runner by 54 to 38 percent.
Obama on Wednesday left Washington and embarked on a three-day cross country trip mixing political and fundraising events linked to his reelection campaign with what are termed official events as part of his presidential duties.
His first stop was at a padlock manufacturing plant in the key swing-state of Wisconsin, where he touted plans to return US jobs lost to low-wage economies overseas.
He will also visit Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, on a trip that will include eight fundraisers designed to raise millions of dollars for the president’s campaign fund, before returning to the White House on Friday.