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Rising Optimism in the White House?

Every White House touts its supposed achievements and good news, while ignoring failures and minimizing bad news. But things are starting to turn around in a way that you get the sense that the Obama Administration is feeling a bit more cheery than they were, say, six months ago.

First, there was the 162K new jobs in March, and we will soon enough know whether that was an aberration or part of a broader turnaround once the Bureau of Labor Statistics announces its April figures this Friday. If the new number is six figures and positive, watch for some serious chirping from Robert Gibbs, David Axelrod and company.

Second, objective improvements in the economic forecast matter electorally only insofar as people perceive the economy to be improving. So you can imagine the cautious optimism in the West Wing as the Administration circulated this New York Times piece and poll, out today, showing that 41 percent of Americans now say the economy is getting better—up 8 points from a month ago. (Only 15 percent say it is worsening.) This news should be taken with a grain of salt, however, for optimism seems to skew heavily in the direction of demographic groups that tend to support the Administration anyway. “Younger and better educated Americans are more likely to describe the economy as on the mend,” writes Marjorie Connelly. “Sixty-one percent of Democrats said the economy is getting better, but only 16 percent of Republicans and 38 percent of independents agreed.” (Do note, however, that independents are more or less right where the country is overall.)

Third: Health care. Now, keep in mind that many of the provisions of the new legislation do not take effect until years from now, after both the upcoming midterms and even President Obama’s re-election bid have passed. Still, WH communications director Dan Pfeiffer–or, more likely, some staff surrogate writing under Pfeiffer’s name–was blogging quite effusively today about another New York Times piece (this one an editorial) on the subject of how benefits from the healthcare reform bill are already being felt by some Americans.

There is another, fourth reason the White House may be feeling a bit more optimistic about its political situation and the Democrats’ situation this autumn: Over the past few months, Organizing for America has been ramping up its organizing efforts. But that is a subject for another, separate post.

Anyway, with a lot of talk about the Democrats potentially losing their majority in the House of Representatives and, though less likely, control of the Senate too, I will go out on a limb tonight–with election day six months from tomorrow–and predict that Democratic losses this fall, though significant, will not be as bad as some are speculating. A lot can happen between now and November, of course, including developments or news that worsen matters for the Obama Administration, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid.

But with six months to go, the political landscape for Democrats is looking a little less uphill than it did with nine months or a year to go until the 2010 midterms. Or I certainly get a sense that the White House thinks so.