Obama’s Pre-Holiday Approval: 57% — Post-Holiday Pre-Cliff: 56%

Photograph by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Photograph by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Marine One, carrying U.S. President Barack Obama and the First Family leave for Hawaii for their Christmas break.

Updated at 3:30 pm EST

Something has happened to President Barack Obama’s approval rating since Election Day, in the midst of an apparently intractable dispute with the House’s Republicans over taxes and spending and in the aftermath of one of the worst schoolhouse shootings ever.

It has risen.

Before the Christmas holiday which the president took in Hawaii, Obama’s public job-approval rating rose to 57 percent in the Gallup daily track, though Dec. 22. On the 21st, it hit 58 percent. That is its highest point since early August of 2009 — 58 percent.

Today, the post-holiday numbers are in: 56 percent, still at a level similar to his ratings three years ago.

The president returned early from holiday today.  Air Force One landed just before noon Washington time, having left Hawaii  last night at close to 10 pm Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time.

The presidential aircraft  carried the nation’s newest senator, Brian Schatz, the lieutenant governor of Hawaii appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to replace the deceased Sen. Daniel Inouye.

It’s telling that the senator-designate hooked such a ride: The Senate also returned from its holiday today to face the ongoing stalemate over tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1. Sen. Harry Reid’s Democrats need all the votes they can get, and the White House wasn’t about to leave one behind in Hawaii. Reid suggested on the floor today that, “time-wise,” a deal seems unlikely by Dec. 31.

That said, the House isn’t here today.

Its members are still away, at the call of House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who maintains that the fiscal ball is in the Democrats’ court following his Republican caucus’ refusal to consider his own “Plan B” for a way out of the jam. Boehner this afternoon called the House back Sunday night, to work into the New Year if necessary.

All of which adds up to another day of likely inaction, five days from the so-called fiscal cliff.

In the waning days of the year, with Congress spinning its wheels as winter storms pound parts of the nation, it will be telling to see how the president’s numbers look on Jan. 1.

In a game such as this, someone must lose.

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