The demise of Osama bin Laden undoubtedly was a shot of adrenaline for President Barack Obama’s sagging poll numbers, but sustaining that for a 2012 re-election campaign may prove difficult should America’s economic troubles take center stage again.
“We’ll have a month or so of good feelings about [bin Laden] being killed, but I would suspect larger issues, such as the economy, are looming in voters’ minds,” said James Campbell, political science professor at SUNY Buffalo.
The president’s approval rating has been stuck below 50 percent, but Monday, prediction market InTrade, which allows people to bet on the outcome of events, showed Obama’s re-election chances soaring after news of bin Laden's death. Also, 42 percent of those who responded to a Reuters.com poll Monday said they either felt more favorable or much more favorable about Obama’s leadership.
“Catching the greatest terror threat of our lifetime certainly does help provide him international-relations bona fides,” said political analyst Keli Goff.
If this was a case of whether or not Obama has national security chops and is prepared for the proverbial “3 a.m. phone call” — a questioned raised in the last presidential election because of his inexperience — he has proven himself, observers said. Even some of his harshest Republican critics praised Obama on Monday.
“He can claim with reasonable authority that the world is safer because of his administration,” said Goff, a blogger with TheLoop21.com.
But Campbell said Obama will need to walk a careful line so that he doesn’t appear to be touting bin Laden’s death for political gain. Also, analysts said, they expected the White House would avoid appearing too triumphant and risk alienating allies in the Muslim world, particularly as Washington seeks to leave Iraq and support Libyan rebels.
“Where the president gains ground is by keeping it nonpartisan,” Campbell said.
Some critics made issue with how often during his Sunday night national address Obama tried to stress that he was the one calling the shots that led to the raid on bin Laden’s compound.
Republican strategist Lynn Krogh said she didn’t mind the self references.
“Obama’s trying to seize this issue and own it,” Krogh said. “He needs a win.”