What a Difference a Year Makes for President Obama

A year that started poorly is ending well for Barack Obama.

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A year that started poorly is ending well for President Barack Obama.

A year ago, the president had just shot himself in the foot when he caved to the Party of Tea on the extension of the Bush tax cuts. But what a difference a year can make. New national surveys have marked an increase in the president's job rating while the unemployment rate is going down.

The unemployment rate is still unacceptably high but the trend is good. And three weeks ago, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the president's economic stimulus saved or created as many as three million jobs.

[Check out 2011: The Year in Cartoons.]

Barack Obama came into 2011 as a lamb and he is leaving as a lion. There are many reasons for the turnaround in the president's fortunes.

In a speech just after Labor Day, President Obama finally confronted the Tea Party with a strong populist economic speech that exposed the GOP's love affair with bankers and billionaires. A month later, the emergence of Occupy Wall Street focused the media spotlight on corporate greed. This month the president delivered on his campaign promise and then some when he withdrew American combat troops from Iraq ahead of schedule.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Tea Party.]

Republicans who started 2011 riding a wave landed high and dry on the shore like a beached whale. This month two battles exposed the split between the Tea Party and the GOP establishment. First, Republicans royally messed up the congressional battle on the payroll tax. To make things even worse, the GOP presidential candidates started beating up each other like rented mules in Iowa. With enemies like the Republicans, the president doesn't need many friends. The shoe was on the other foot and it was the GOP's turn to shoot.

[Check out editorial cartoons about the 2012 GOP field.]

House Speaker John Boehner had to eat crow and change his position on the payroll tax twice because he couldn't sell a compromise deal to the Tea Party caucus in the House. The House Republican failure to extend payroll tax cuts for working families prompted Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell to publicly criticize House Republicans.

And then there's all the friendly fire in the GOP presidential race. Wednesday night about at 6 PM EST, the headlines on the CBS Political Hotsheet website told the whole story about the fratricide within the GOP ranks:

  • "Newt Gingrich says he is uncomfortable with Ron Paul's views on Iran."
  • "Bachmann attacks Perry for crony capitalism."
  • "Gary Johnson launches his Libertarian Party campaign for president."
  • Barack Obama is riding high into 2012 with a little help from his friends and a lot of help from his enemies.

    • See a collection of photos of the 2012 GOP hopefuls.
    • See the Top 5 GOP Candidate Gaffes of 2011
    • See a slide show of 10 issues driving Obama's re-election campaign.