President Bush’s approval rating has surged in recent weeks, reversing what had been an extended period of decline, with Americans now expressing renewed optimism about the future of democracy in Iraq, the campaign against terrorism and the U.S. economy, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News Poll.

Bush’s overall approval rating rose to 47 percent, up from 39 percent in early November, with 52 percent saying they disapprove of how he is handling his job. His approval rating on Iraq jumped 10 percentage points since early November to 46 percent, while his rating on the economy rose 11 percentage points to 47 percent. A clear majority, 56 percent, said they approve of the way Bush is handling the fight against terrorism — a traditional strong point in his reputation that nonetheless had flagged to 48 percent in the November poll. . . . A solid majority (60 percent) agrees with Bush on his opposition to setting a timetable for withdrawing forces. Of the 39 percent who favor a deadline, 31 percent would like to see all U.S. troops removed by the end of next year. The poll also found Americans slightly more receptive to a candidate for Congress next year who opposes a timetable than to one who supports a timetable.

This poll predates last night’s speech and this morning’s press conference, of course.