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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

After the “Welcome Surprise”

Assuming there’s no major immediate blowback in the Middle East from the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, what, realistically, can the White House expect in the way of better feelings about the president here at home?
Unsurprisingly, Mark Blumenthal at HuffPollster is all over the question with historical precedents and one very important distinct feature of the current atmosphere: Americans had largely given up on the prospect of a capture or killing of OBL, when it finally happened. This made it a “welcome surprise.”
Still, as Blumenthal notes, foreign-policy-related “bumps” in presidential approval ratings are rarely long-lived. As for the size of the one on the way, he suggests the 7-point boost George W. Bush got when Saddam Hussein was captured is the best analogy (though I doubt most Americans’ hatred of Saddam ever reached the levels earned by Osama).
All I’d add is that “welcome surprises” like Osama’s death may have a greater residual effect when they cut against common criticisms of the president involved. As I suggested in an earlier post today, certain attack lines on Barack Obama may never be as effective as they were the day before yesterday. But the most important factor is how the White House builds on this “surprise.” And I’m with J.P. Green on this: a brisk drawdown of troop levels in Afghanistan would be exactly what the political doctor ordered heading towards November of 2012.

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