Obama, Osama and the foreign policy stature gap

at 07:48 AM ET, 05/04/2011

The potential Republican presidential field contains five former governors, one current governor, a former Speaker of the House, a former senator, two sitting members of Congress and two businessmen.

And of that dozen, there is not a single candidate with a deep reservoir of foreign policy experience to match President Obama.

That chasm has widened in the days following the announcement Sunday that an operation approved by Obama had led to the death of Osama bin Laden.

Polling tells some of the story.

Six in 10 Americans now approve of Obama’s handling of the war in Afghanistan in a new Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll — up from just 44 percent who said the same in an April Washington Post/ABC News survey.

That same Post/Pew poll showed two-thirds of people now believe that the mission in Afghanistan will succeed, a 15-point increase from December 2010.

And, the reaction of some of the top-tier Republicans tells the other part of the story.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is seeking to take the partisanship out of the bin Laden issue — “This is not a Republican or a Democrat thing ... this is an American thing,” he said Tuesday, while seeking to shift the debate back to the economy.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is weighing the 2012 race, was short on foreign policy specifics in a conversation with a handful of reporters during a trip to New York City on Tuesday; asked whether he was ready to debate Obama on foreign policy, Daniels replied “probably not,” according to National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru.

While the foreign policy gap seems significant at the moment, it may not ultimately be of such critical importance.

Most political strategists — of both partisan stripes — believe that despite the foreign policy focus of the last few months (Egypt, Libya and now bin Laden) the 2012 election will ultimately be decided on domestic issues, most notably the state of the economy.

And, once the initial excitement and patriotic rallying effect wears off in the wake of bin Laden’s slaying, it will be far easier for 2012 Republicans to stand up and criticize the president.

(Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, in fact, isn’t waiting; in a trip to Iowa on Monday he said that “the president’s foreign policy with respect to our security is to make our allies less confident in us.”)

Still, the strengthening of Obama’s foreign policy bona fides are a welcome development for a president who looked to have real vulnerability there — particularly on Afghanistan — heading into the 2012 election.

While the current levels of support for Obama are sure to fade somewhat, he will be able to use the death of bin Laden as an effective pushback on Republican attacks on his approach to foreign policy.

Obama has literally been there and done that in tough hot spots around the world. Republicans needs to find a way to close that foreign policy stature gap between now and November 2012.

Hints from Huckabee: Mike Huckabee, whose team often relies on telling reporters how serious he is about running for president rather than showing it, is starting to show some leg.

On Tuesday, we learned that Huckabee will both speak at June’s Republican Leadership Conference — a major 2012 GOP presidential cattle call in New Orleans — and that his PAC is raising money in Washington today.

Does it mean he’s getting more serious? Maybe, maybe not.

But for a guy who doesn’t seem to be making many actual political moves to build towards a 2012 bid, it’s something.

Colorado GOP introduces redistricting map: Yesterday morning, we detailed the current standstill in the Colorado legislature over the congressional redistricting map.

In the afternoon, Republicans produced their proposal, which still differs significantly from the Democratic proposal but, according to Republicans, contains concessions.

Republicans point out that their new map keeps Denver whole, makes Aurora the base of the 6th district and keeping Longmont in the eastern 4th district, held by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). All of these things, they say, are compromises.

But the GOP makes few of the changes Democrats have been pushing for, including shifting Gardner and Reps. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) significantly and putting Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s (D-Colo.) entire suburban 7th district on the west side of Denver.

The two sides didn’t sound optimistic about reaching an agreement late Tuesday.

Bush declines Ground Zero invite: President Obama has invited former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) and George W. Bush to visit the site of the World Trade Center with him on Thursday.

The former president declined — reportedly because he did not want to distract attention from the current White House occupant. Both Bush and Giuliani have repeatedly praised the president for successfully taking down bin Laden this weekend.

“President Bush will not be in attendance on Thursday,” a spokesman told Fox News. “He appreciated the invite, but has chosen in his post-presidency to remain largely out of the spotlight. He continues to celebrate with all Americans this important victory in the war on terror.”

Obama will visit the site of the September 11th, 2001, attacks and meet with family members of some of the victims. Officials say it will be his last event marking bin Laden’s death, although he will return to Ground Zero for the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Fixbits:

According to a new survey, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell (D) is among the most accurate political prognosticators on TV, but Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) are among the least accurate.

NBC says “nothing has changed” when it comes to the future of Donald Trump’s TV show, “The Apprentice.” Hmmm.

The NBC-Politico debate that was originally supposed to be held earlier this week has been rescheduled for Sept. 7.

Democrats have taken a Republican state House district in a special election in Wisconsin — a potentially ominous sign for Republican state senators facing recall elections.

A new Quinnipiac poll finds 58 percent of people would not vote for both Donald Trump and Sarah Palin for president.

CIA Director Leon Panetta says he expects images of bin Laden’s body to be released.

Must-reads:

For 2012, a reversal of Obama’s selling points” — Harold Meyerson, Washington Post

For Obama, Big Rise in Poll Numbers After Bin Laden Raid” — James Dao and Dalia Sussman, New York Times

 
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