What is the origin of Vladimir Putin's new popularity (approval rating) in Russian public opinion polls? The usual answer that it is due to the nationalist rallying in the wake of the invasion of Crimea. This is only a part of the story.
From a Western point of view, no other candidate in the race would have been preferable to Putin. We know him, he knows us, and neither faction is likely to miscalculate with regards to the other. Putin seems the only leader on the horizon with the necessary resolve, know-how, and ruthlessness to make the country work.