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As GOP presidential contenders dogfight, how's Obama doing?

It’s way too early in the presidential campaign to make predictions about the 2012 outcome. But at this point, President Obama might confidently say, “I’ve got ‘em right where I want ‘em.”

By Staff writer / January 28, 2012

President Barack Obama waves as he walks off helicopter Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Friday.

Susan Walsh/AP

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It’s way too early in the presidential campaign to make predictions about the 2012 outcome. But at this point, President Obama might confidently say, “I’ve got ‘em right where I want ‘em.”

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Front-runners Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are battering each other rhetorically as Rick Santorum and Ron Paul circle around, trying to get a jab in here and there.

Obama’s approval ratings are inching back upwards as much of the electorate begins to see glimmers of hope in the economy. And if the election were held today, he would beat any one of them, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.

Over at Betfair and Intrade, meanwhile, participants in those online betting and election prediction websites give Obama a comfortable lead in his chances of being re-elected – averaging 56 percent compared to 37 percent for Romney’s winning and just 2 percent for Gingrich. (Both Betfair and Intrade give Romney better than an 80 percent chance of being nominated – Gingrich is down in single digits – which gives some indication of Obama’s likely opponent and the way the incumbent is already framing his campaign.)

The Monitor's Weekly News Quiz for Jan. 21-27, 2012

The important thing for Obama come November will be how people feel about his tenure as president.

There’s no doubt that it’s been a rough three years as the economy faltered, housing foreclosures remained a major problem, and the US slowly – very slowly – disengaged from two costly and unpopular wars.

Then there was the sharp partisan divisiveness in Washington – something Obama hoped to transcend.

His failure there can be measured by the relative party polarization in his approval/disapproval ratings – among the highest divide between Democrats and Republicans since the Gallup organization began tracking that during Eisenhower administration. (Political polarization was even higher during some of George W. Bush’s years in office.)

Still, Gallup finds some hopeful signs for Obama.

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