WASHINGTON • President Barack Obama is enjoying a surge in public approval as he marks the midpoint of his first term, an uptick that follows a productive lame-duck congressional session and his well-received speech on the shooting in Tucson, Ariz.
A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released Wednesday night showed Obama's job-approval rating at 53 percent, an eight-point jump from mid-December and his highest rating since July 2009. Surveys from CNN/Opinion Research and ABC News/Washington Post also put Obama's approval rating above the 50 percent threshold.
Americans are still pessimistic about the course of the nation, but less so than in recent months. According to the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 35 percent say the nation is headed in the right direction, while 56 percent say it's on the wrong track. Still, it's the best finding on that question since October 2009.
Two years after his inauguration and just weeks into that new Congress, in which Republicans hold a majority in the House, Obama scores better than Republicans on key issues tested by ABC and the Washington Post.
Respondents trust the president over Republicans by five points on the economy, three points on the budget deficit, six points on the threat of terrorism, two points on taxes and 14 points on helping the middle class. But they are equally divided on who would better handle health care, with 42 percent choosing each and 10 percent saying they trust neither.
Obama re-election to be conducted out of Chicago • As expected, the president has chosen Chicago as the headquarters for his 2012 re-election campaign, an official said Thursday.
The campaign headquarters is to open in the spring, according to the Obama campaign official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The news came as senior adviser David Axelrod prepared to leave the White House and return to Chicago soon after the president's State of the Union speech on Tuesday in order to spearhead the re-election bid.
The decision bucks recent history. Every two-term president in the last 30 years — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan — set up their re-election campaign offices near the White House or in suburban Virginia.