For Obama, an actual good week

For the first time in a while, President Obama is enjoying a pretty good week.

The jobs picture brightened slightly Friday, and though 200,000 new jobs still aren’t enough to keep pace with population growth and a healthy number of the unemployed have stopped looking for work, brighter beats darker any day. The full picture of forecasts for growth, particularly in the critical housing industry, remains worrisome and weak. But politically the metric for the public, and for Obama's political fortunes, is the unemployment number, and this month that number went down to 8.5 percent for the first time in three years. He can and will call it progress.

Meanwhile, with all eyes on a split vote in the Iowa caucuses and a very split GOP, Obama wedged himself into the news cycle with a frontal attack on congressional Republicans. Four recess appointments they had sought to avoid, and while far fewer than presidents George W. Bush or Bill Clinton, Republicans are livid. Richard Cordray's appointment to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau prompted screaming press releases from congressional Republicans, and challenges to the constitutionality of Obama's move will make later headlines. The bump he got with his base, and likely some independent voters, is probably larger than any damage he did with other independents who don't like recess appointments.

The act itself was only part of the story, as the campaigner-in-chief went on the road to provide the appointment full display — in Ohio. Before a boisterous crowd, he blamed House and Senate Republicans for blocking his agenda to protect the middle class. Having won round one of the payroll tax cut extension fight, Obama is clearly feeling buoyed. And though the eventual Republican nominee isn't likely to be a member of Congress, Obama will work hard to contrast himself with congressional Republicans, whose popularity is lower than 25 percent in opinion polls, as long as he can.

The plan to overhaul the military, particularly with cuts to veterans, was risky, and any GOP nominee is likely to campaign against it. But this week, on balance, Obama scored well for a president in a difficult reelection campaign for reelection that he could easily lose.



WILL SOUTH CAROLINA PICK THE 2012 GOP NOMINEE? Ask A.B. returns Thursday, Jan. 12. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.