President Barack Obama’s fortunes rallied on Friday as the U.S. jobless rate eased, his approval rating rose and his Republican rivals battled over harassment claims against presidential hopeful Herman Cain.
Nearly half of Americans now approve of how Obama is doing his job, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed, and unemployment slipped to 9 percent from 9.1 percent — good news for the president as he faces a tough 2012 re-election fight with the economy as the key issue.
Rare infighting in the Republican Party, usually known for its unity, also benefits Obama. Cain accused fellow candidate Rick Perry’s camp of being behind news reports the former pizza executive faced sexual harassment allegations in the 1990s.
“Obviously Team Obama wants the Republican field as large as possible for as long as possible,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said. “The more they duke it out, the more ammo Team Obama has going into the general election.”
Democrats have stayed out of the harassment controversy, focusing on Obama’s job-creation plans and keeping campaign attacks on former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, whom Cain replaced at the top of most polls of Republican voters.
“It’s clouding the Republican message right now, so that’s got to be good news for Democrats and they are quite wisely being very quiet about it,” said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.