SOUTH BEND  — President Trump has been looking better. This isn’t leading to some joke about more yellow in his unique hairdo. Nor is it satire. The president’s chances for reelection have been looking better. Not great. Better.

It’s true. His approval ratings, though certainly not sparkling, improved in polls after his State of the Union address, mistakenly thought by many Democrats to be a disaster for Trump.

And it wasn’t just an overnight bump in ratings. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted at the end of February showed Trump with an approval rating of 46%.

OK, disapproval was higher, 52%.

But remember when Trump’s approval ratings were below 40%? And some pundits thought he was left with nothing but a base that was chipping away? That he couldn’t climb beyond support by just a third of the voters?

The NBC/WSJ poll showed approval had climbed from 43 to 46% since January and disapproval had declined from 54 to 52%.

Most significant of all, the poll found that 88% of Republicans approved of the job Trump is doing. If Republican support remains so high – and Democrats wrangle and rupture over a Green New Deal or hard feelings from the primaries once again – Trump could win a second term.

Prediction that he will win reelection? No. Just saying that he could.

Trump faces serious woes with the work of Robert Mueller, investigations by House committees and continued revelations from Michael Cohen, his long-time fixer. A new poll showed Cohen is regarded by most Americans as more truthful than the president.

Yet, even if investigators find that “smoking gun,” will his base believe it? And would over 80% of Republicans, even though many don’t condone his personal conduct, still find it better to vote for him rather than for a Democratic nominee allied with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and socialism?

Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster participating in the bipartisan NBC/WSJ survey, concluded: “It’s 45-55 against the president at this stage of the game.” Kind of like Trump’s chances in some 2016 forecasts.

Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster also participating for NBC/WSJ, noted: “As long as these economic numbers look like this, that always keeps an incumbent president in the race.”

An analyst for Sabato’s Crystal Ball, projecting the Electoral College results that decide the presidency, found that the race starts with 248 electoral votes at least leaning Republican, 244 at least leaning Democratic and 46 votes in the toss-up category.

It could be close.

The NBC/WSJ poll also asked a question that sheds some light on why Trump improved in ratings after the State of the Union address and on the reason for his strategy of denouncing socialism and blaming it for the chaos in Venezuela.

When asked the least desirable characteristics for a presidential candidate, the voters offered almost no objections to an African-American or a woman and not much concern about a person who is gay or lesbian. The most objectionable characteristics by far were being over 75, with 62% citing that as negative, and being a socialist, with 72% turned off by that.

As Nate Silver, guru of electoral results prognosticating, put it: “Socialist goals (e.g. greater income redistribution) are often quite popular. But ‘socialism’ as a brand or label is really unpopular.”

Really, really, really unpopular with the Republicans Trump will need to keep in his camp in order to prevail again in the Electoral College, even if he again loses the popular vote nationally.

Trump looking better? Well, he had been. But a new sampling, a Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday, showed he could be slipping again after the Cohen revelations. His approval was down to 38% in that poll.

Still, it showed Republican approval solid at 82%, a key to possible Electoral College survival. 

Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.