Osama bin Laden's death will boost Obama approval rating, but for how long?
Amid bipartisan praise for the bin Laden mission, the Obama approval rating will get a bump, but the feel-good moment won't last forever. In the 2012 election, economic recovery will be the issue.
Just as President Carter looked ineffectual after a botched military mission in 1980 to rescue the US hostages in Iran, Mr. Obama benefits from the opposite outcome. He is wrapped in an aura of success. And that success message will stay in the news for days and weeks to come, as details of the planning and implementation of Sunday’s raid on the Al Qaeda leader’s compound in Pakistan emerge. Obama himself is winning plaudits from across the political spectrum for his handling of the effort as commander in chief.
But the mood won’t last forever. Just ask the first President Bush. He scored big politically following the successful 1991 Gulf War, only to lose reelection a year and a half later amid high unemployment. In 2012, Obama too will ultimately be judged first and foremost on the state of the US economy, which is still digging out of a deep recession.
IN PICTURES: Osama bin Laden death: reaction
“Obviously [the death of bin Laden] is a big mission accomplished, and the exuberance will clearly benefit Obama,” says Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University. “There will be a moment of celebration, but then the partisanship will continue. It doesn’t insulate him from those kinds of attacks down the line.”
Still, Mr. Zelizer adds, the elimination of Mr. bin Laden is not just a foreign policy and military achievement; the war on terror is one of the big issues of our era, and bin Laden was enemy No. 1.
Will Republicans be dissuaded?
“Clearly,” he says, “it’s something Republicans are aware is going to loom large in the public’s mind – that he was the president to do it.”
Some analysts are even wondering if bin Laden’s demise will make Obama look harder to beat in 2012, and therefore dissuade some potential Republican candidates from jumping into the ring. At the moment, all eyes are on Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), who has been hinting for months he might run, and has said he would make an announcement after his state’s legislative session ends. That took place Friday, but still no word.