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Poll numbers: Obama bounces back

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama has bounced back from his low point after November's elections and enjoys stronger support heading into the 2012 election cycle, particularly against Sarah Palin, according to a McClatchy Newspapers-Marist poll released yesterday.

Obama's fortunes appear to be rising along with the country's. The poll found a jump in the number of people who think the country's heading in the right direction. Also, Obama probably benefited from the productive post-election session of Congress.

"Obama's standing is on far firmer footing," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, which conducted the national survey. "It puts a different hue on the 2012 elections."

The president's rating improved on several fronts, including job approval, how many like him personally, and whether they think he'll do better in the next two years. His strengthening appeal was most noticeable in how he matches up against potential Republican rivals.

Today Obama would beat Republican Mitt Romney by 51 percent to 38 percent, the poll showed. In a December McClatchy-Marist poll, he trailed the former Massachusetts governor, 46-44 percent.

Obama would defeat Republican Mike Huckabee by a similar margin, 50 percent to 38 percent. Last month, the president led the former Arkansas governor by only 47-43 percent.

And he'd crush Palin by 56 percent to 30 percent. A month before, he led the former Alaska governor by 52-40 percent.

"Clearly, the lame-duck session of Congress showed that things could move forward," Miringoff said. "That's something people are eager for, especially independents."

The survey of 1,018 adults was conducted from the evening of Jan. 6 through Monday evening, straddling the Arizona shooting Saturday morning. There was no noticeable change in the numbers in the nightly samples after the shooting. Results are statistically significant within 3.0 percentage points.

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