Friday, October 21, 2011

Obama Vindicated In Libya, But It Won't Help Re-election Bid

Mitt Romney recently said that Obama stood for the "eloquently justified surrender of world leadership." This despite the deaths of Osama bin LadenAnwar al-Awlaki and now, Muammar Qaddafi on the president's watch. Naturally, the Republicans are giving him no credit for the death of the Libyan dictator. In part it's because Obama limited military engagement and let NATO allies lead in Libya. The Republicans indeed consider this approach a "surrender," enamored as they are with Bush-style, swaggering cowboy diplomacy. Ultimately, though, they just can't give the president credit for anything. If he were a Republican, then the response would be different, as Andrew Sullivan notes:

To rid the world of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and Moammar Qaddafi within six months: if Obama were a Republican, he'd be on Mount Rushmore by now.

The administration is telling GOP critics that its approach to Libya was correct and will use it to portray Obama as an effective world leader. True, Obama's recent actions abroad will nullify Republican arguments that he stands for surrender. But the death of Qaddafi, like that of bin Laden, will ultimately not help the president in his re-election bid. First, the election is still a year away. More importantly, the faltering economy, including a stubborn 9.1 percent unemployment rate, remains the election issue for a majority of Americans.

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza (left) points out this reality:

[A May Washington Post-Pew Research Center survey] showed virtually no positive movement for Obama when it came to his handling of the economy — the central issue on the minds of most voters — and even the broader political benefits to Obama from bin Laden’s death quickly wore off. In the latest Post-ABC poll his job approval rating stood at just 42 percent.

“If Obama only got a brief, small bump from bin Laden’s death, Gaddafi’s death isn’t going to matter at all by the time we hand out candy this October, much less next October,” said Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster whose firm is working for the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. “The election is much more about Americans losing their jobs than about Gaddafi losing his head.”

A look at most recent national polling backs up Bolger’s point that Americans are almost exclusively focused on the economy.

In the October Post-ABC News national poll, 51 percent of respondents said the economy was the most important issue facing the country while just one percent named “foreign policy”.

...History, too, suggests that at times of domestic economic peril, foreign policy victories tend to play a minor role in campaigns.

Following the conclusion of the first Gulf War in 1991, President George H.W. Bush was regarded as unbeatable. But, the economy soured, Bill Clinton emerged and the phrase “it’s the economy, stupid” forever won a place in the political lexicon.

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