The Note: Obama's Latest Numbers


A FLATTENED APPROVAL RATING IS SOFTENED BY SOME UNDERLYING GAINS for Barack Obama in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll -- with no sign of tailwinds for the Republicans in Congress. After a 9-point jump in overall approval in January, Obama's landed at an even split: Forty-seven percent of Americans approve of his work in office, while 47 percent disapprove. Partisan and ideological divisions are profound, including a record low in approval from Republicans, according to ABC's GARY LANGER.

BUT CONGRESS OVERALL, AND THE REPUBLICANS WHO NOW CONTROL IT, REMAIN IN CONSIDERABLY WORSE SHAPE, with 22 and 27 percent approval, respectively, LANGER notes. The latter shows no renaissance in GOP ratings after the party's big gains in last fall's midterm elections. Instead, perhaps given the fractious nature of the Republican caucus, the public by a 7-point margin says it's Obama who's taking a stronger leadership role in the government these days. That compares with a scant 2-point gap between them in January. Further, among people who see Obama as taking the leading role in Washington, 73 percent say that's a good thing. Among those who see the Republicans as taking the lead, fewer call it a good thing, 58 percent.

THE DEMOCRATS IN CONGRESS HAVE REBOUNDED FROM 30 PERCENT APPROVAL LAST OCTOBER, advancing by 8 points to come within a single point of their best since 2009. While hardly popular, they may be benefitting simply from not being at the helm. Congressional Republicans' approval rating, by contrast, is a non-significant +2 points from its level in mid-October.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: The culture wars are raging again, bringing the predictable splits. Democrats say one thing; Republicans -- including all of the potential 2016ers -- say another, reflecting real divisions among voters. But there's something missing on the GOP side: some of the biggest voices in the business community. Leading the way in criticizing the new Indiana law and its cousins in other states are titans of the corporate world: Apple, Walmart, Marriott, Eli Lilly, even Indiana's Chamber of Commerce. There are few signs that corporate leaders' splits with the political right will last permanently, or matter for things like campaign contributions. But it's instructive to see how things are lining up in this fight. It's as if big slices of corporate America are glimpsing a demographic and ideological future ahead of their political counterparts.



INDIANA GOV. MIKE PENCE SAYS HE "COULD HAVE HANDLED" RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT LAW BETTER. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Tuesday admitted that he mishandled the passage of a religious freedom law and now wants a piece of legislation to clarify that it does not give anyone the right to discriminate in the state. "This law does not give anyone a license to deny services to gay and lesbian couples. I could have handled that better this week," he said during a press conference yesterday in Indiana. Pence said that he has been working with state legislators and businesses "literally around the clock" to work through the controversy, saying that discrimination was never part of his plan, according to ABC's MEGHAN KENEALLY. "We want to make it clear that Indiana is open for business, we want to make it clear that Hoosier hospitality is not a slogan it's a way of life," he said.

GAY ATHLETES PLANNING PROTESTS OVER INDIANA LAW AROUND FINAL FOUR. Several prominent, openly gay athletes will be among those protesting the new Indiana religious freedom law this week, despite Gov. Mike Pence's promise to "fix" the law before the Final Four begins on Saturday, according to local activists. Olympic diving legend Greg Louganis and former NBA player Jason Collins are among those coming to the state this week for press conferences or other public events, ABC's RICK KLEIN writes. The effort to keep attention on the law around the college basketball showcase in Indianapolis caps a week where sports figures have helped drive the national debate over a law gay-rights group view as opening the door to legalized discrimination. "It should be totally repealed," Louganis, now an activist for LGBT causes, said on the ESPN/ABC podcast "Capital Games." You can listen to the full "Capital Games" podcast HERE on desktop and HERE on mobile devices, or download it for free via smartphone podcast apps.

WH: INDIANA LAW "NOT FAIR" AND "NOT CONSISTENT WITH OUR VALUES." The White House Tuesday pushed back against comparisons between Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the 1993 federal law, saying Governor Pence has falsely suggested the two are the same. "That is not true," Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the White House, ABC's MARY BRUCE writes. "This is a much more open-ended piece of legislation that could reasonably be used to try to justify discriminating against somebody because of who they love."

US-CUBA RELATIONS: STAGE SET FOR HISTORIC MEETING BETWEEN OBAMA AND CASTRO. The United States and Cuba are set to mark an historic milestone next week with President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro poised to share the stage at the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama. It will be the first scheduled meeting between leaders of the two countries in nearly 60 years, ABC's JIM AVILA and JORDYN PHELPS note. In advance of the historic meeting, "Power Players" sat down with Josefina Vidal, the head diplomat representing Cuba in negotiations with the United States in the months following President Obama's announcement in December that the U.S. would normalize relations with the Communist island. WATCH:

AARON SCHOCK: WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE "DOWNTON ABBEY" OFFICE. Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock's resignation from his position in Congress took effect Tuesday. Schock's office will remain staffed, and continue offering services to the constituents of the 18th Congressional District of Illinois. The office will be supervised by the Clerk of the House until a new member is elected. But as the FBI continues its investigation into his finances, one question remains. What will happen to the pheasant feathers, golden sconces, picture frames, "drippy crystal chandelier" and red walls of the "Downton Abbey"-inspired office that led to greater scrutiny of Schock's spending? ABC's BENJAMIN SIEGEL has more.


@CHueyBurnsRCP: Santorum considering 2016, But his vintage sweater vest is mulling retirement!

@jasondhorowitz: I see Scott sneeze. Gov. Walker is allergic to dogs. Ballgame?

@bcoyne:Programming alert! Today at 12:30pm ET @airandspace Museum will be holding their Ask the Expert Tour on #Periscope

@KilloughCNN: Rand Paul finds way to champion Iowa ethanol via @DMRegister

@Geneva_Sands: 10 companies that badly want visas for skilled immigrant workers via @tedhesson for @ThisIsFusion