House Republicans seem to be doing their best to make President Obama look reasonable and to deepen the GOP's reputation as a cadre of die-hard obstructionists.
At least that's the interpretation of some Democrats and pollsters in reviewing new survey research.
The latest example of the dynamic is the rebellion by conservatives in the Republican-controlled House against a temporary agreement between the White House and the Democrat-controlled Senate to extend the current payroll tax break for two months and also extend unemployment benefits. House conservatives want a longer-term extension of the payroll tax break and other conservative provisions. But a deal needs to be worked out before year's end or the tax break will expire and millions of Americans will start paying more out of their wages to the government.
Democratic strategists note that Obama's job-approval ratings are on the upswing and they say part of the reason is that Obama's pragmatic image is being reinforced in contrast to the hard-edged ideology of House Republicans. Gary Langer, who directs polling for ABC News, says his organization's latest survey suggests that Obama is doing better in part because he has been campaigning against what the president calls a dysfunctional, overly partisan Congress.
The new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 49 per cent of Americans approve of Obama's job performance and 47 per cent disapprove, a marked improvement from his low of 42 per cent approval in October. Meanwhile, the approval rating for Republicans in Congress is a dismal 20 per cent.
There are other indications of an Obama upswing, at least in contrast to the congressional GOP. Voters trust Obama more than Republicans to protect the middle class by 50 per cent to 35 per cent, an improvement for Obama from last month when the two sides had similiar ratings on this question. And 46 per cent prefer Obama on the issue of taxes, long a GOP strong point, while only 41 per cent prefer the congressional Republicans.