Punctuated (for now at least) by a CNN poll showing a 58% approval rating for Barack Obama, the Pollster trend line as of now has Obama at 53.3% approval.
Does this mean that his Joint Session address was a big deal after all?
Well, no, not really. If you look at the Pollster trend line, the speech doesn't seem to have been the decisive moment; instead, Obama's approval ratings bottomed out and started rising in late August. The event that appears to coincide with the turn in the trend line isn't the speech; it was Senator Kennedy's death. There are a couple of other possible news pegs that might have helped Obama; it's possible that the 9/11 anniversary stuff could create a bit of a rally-round-the-flag effect.
I continue to think that the more important factor here is that Obama had a mostly very good August. The big exception is Afghanistan, which still looms as a major threat. On that front, the big question I have is whether the American and coalition death toll in July and August was a brief, election-oriented spike or whether it is the start of a longer term higher casualty rate. As far as domestic politics is concerned, I think that Obama can sustain a whole lot of policy losses in Afghanistan, but he probably can't sustain casualty rates like those of July and August. So that's something to watch.
Of course, the main thing to watch is the economy, and I think an Obama rebound beginning in late August is consistent with increasingly promising news about the economy. Long term, though, what's going to matter eventually is whether the recovery really takes hold and then starts turning around the jobs market. If that happens, and assuming that health care avoids disaster, it seems to me that Obama is in pretty good shape for now.