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Obama widens approval above all as Dems, Republicans lag

President Barack Obama receives lukewarm ratings from Americans, at least until you compare him with other major political figures and institutions.

Fifty percent approve of the job he is doing, a Bloomberg National Poll shows, down from 54 percent in December.

Those favorability numbers look solid when compared with those for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and both political parties, with voters unhappy about U.S. finances and the direction the nation is heading.

"It's about the money," says J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., a Des Moines, Iowa-based firm that conducted the nationwide survey. "His scores are lowest when it comes to dealing with the budget, and it is the thing that inflames the American public. Government spending is the hot-button issue right now."

Obama's approval rating is roughly equal to what Bill Clinton had at this point in his presidency, according to data maintained by Gallup. It's higher than the 45 percent Ronald Reagan recorded in April 1982.

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