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As Republican candidates pummel each other, Obama can only smile

As the Republican presidential candidates continue to battle and improvement in the US economy is seen, President Obama is getting better public reviews – good news for his re-election bid.

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President Barack Obama greets guests at the Rolls-Royce Crosspointe jet engine disc manufacturing facility on Friday, March 9, in Prince George, Va. Recent jobs figures and public attitudes about an improving economy may be boosting Obama's re-election prospects.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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With eight months to go before the presidential election – can it really be that long? – a lot could go wrong for President Obama.

The US recovery could falter and unemployment inch back up – perhaps as a result of European economic difficulties jumping the Atlantic. Gasoline prices could become even more burdensome on businesses and individual Americans. Disengaging from war in Afghanistan could prove more difficult than Pentagon planners figure. Obama may have to fulfill his very public pledge to “cover Israel’s back” in response to Iran’s nuclear weapons capability.

And of course there are always what former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used to call “unknown unknowns … things we do not know we don't know.”

But for now, at least in terms of presidential election politics, there must be at least a few Cheshire cat grins around the White House.

None of the four remaining Republican contenders shows any signs of dropping out as they continue to pummel each other on the primary/caucus trail. If Newt Gingrich were to do badly in next Tuesday’s primaries in Mississippi and Alabama and call it quits, that would leave Rick Santorum to concentrate his fire on front-runner Mitt Romney – who would have to respond, further delaying the point at which he can concentrate fulltime on Obama, return to his inherently moderate self, and hope to look presidential.

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