Here’s a political riddle: What happens when you have the two most historically despised major party candidates running against each other for president of the United States?
A: The current president starts to look pretty f’ing good.
That seems to be the case for Barack Obama, whose 55 percent approval rating in a recent CNN poll is his best number since he began his second term, and tied for the best over the past seven years. This also marks nine straight months with an approval rating higher than 50 percent, which beats any streak since 2009.
But here’s the most important stat: In the span of a single year, his approval rating has gone up ten percent.
Gee, I wonder why that could be?
Could it be that people really don’t like Hillary Clinton, and they like Donald Trump even less? That the hatred for both is historic and record-breaking? And that the last 12 months have been defined by their dueling campaigns to replace Obama in the White House? And that, by contrast, the only thing Obama’s numbers could really do, in a sane universe, was go up?
In the absence of any major policy moves in the past year, there aren’t many compelling alternative explanations for Obama’s rise. Americans are having premature Obama nostalgia, as they should, and they’re beginning to understand that even though he was a convenient punching bag at times, things could—and probably will—get a whole lot worse. By the time inauguration day rolls around, don’t be surprised to see our departing president beloved by 70 percent or more. And if Trump somehow wins, Obama will probably be canonized within a year.