A year ago, Barack Obama's presidency seemed to be in deep trouble. His party had been thrashed in the 2010 congressional elections. The economy was languishing. His poll ratings were dismal. A year later, though, he stands as the favorite to win the presidential election of 2012. What on earth happened?
It is something of a mystery, although he did have some help. The Republicans helped a lot. Their intransigence in Congress proved annoying over time. Their presidential-primary campaign alternated between farce and fierce and produced an unloved presumptive nominee in Mitt Romney. The economy began to do a little better. Obama, 50, showed great skill as a Commander in Chief, sending the Navy SEALs to take out Osama bin Laden and supervising an orderly departure from Iraq. But most of all, in the roil of a difficult time, he seemed smart and steady, trustworthy. Monuments are not often built to politicians who are merely trustworthy, but they do tend to win re-election.
Klein is TIME's political columnist
Next Goodluck Jonathan