The president is more popular than he's been for a long time. The president is more popular than a lot of presidents ever have been. You can attribute it to a lingering bounce from his re-election. You can attribute it to a newer bounce from his vigorous defense of himself and his ideas in his inaugural address. It is probably both of those things. But I think the primary reason that the president's numbers are heading into puppies-and-fluffy-bunnies territory lies in his ongoing campaign -- by means both explicit and implicit -- to delegitimize the Republican party as a credible opposition party. For at least 20 years, the Republicans have tolerated within themselves positions and candidates far from the mainstream of our politics. The reason they were able to do this and still prosper was that they never were forced to pay a price for it. Either they were able to paper it over, or the Democrats declined to make an issue of if because of their pathetic desire to break off a corner of the crazy and/or the greedy for themselves. (Over that same stretch of time, the Democrats delegitimized themselves as an opposition, which is a different problem entirely.) The election of Barack Hussein Obama threw the Republicans -- and the raging conservative Id that is the only intellectual energy the Republicans have -- completely over the edge. It wasn't just the mainstreaming of the birther crap. It wasn't just the rise of the Tea Party, a modern New Media marriage of old-fashioned nativism and crackpot populism straight out of Father Coughlin. (Nothing is new. Honest.) It was that the Republican party establishment was overwhelmed by the abandoned wrath aimed at a very centrist Democratic president and the wrath burned out the party's impulse control.