Washington Post 6/24/2011: Barack Obama, the national security president

Barack Obama, the national security president

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) sought to paint then-Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) as too inexperienced to lead the country in a dangerous world.

“Obama and congressional liberals...too risky for America,” said the narrator of a McCain ad that aired in the final month of the campaign.

Three years later, Obama finds himself in a vulnerable political position heading into his 2012 re-election race — thanks in large part to the continued struggles of the American economy.

His saving grace? Ironically, it might just be his leadership on national security and terrorism.

In the latest Bloomberg poll, which was released Thursday, Obama’s overall job approval stood at 49 percent. Although Obama’s approval numbers on the economy (39 percent), job creation (38 percent) and the budget deficit (32 percent) all lagged, it was his stratospheric 69 percent approval on terrorism that helped his cumulative number hover near 50 percent.

The June Washington Post/ABC News poll produced a similar result. Asked to name one thing that Obama had done “especially well as president” recently, nearly three in 10 (29 percent) cited the finding/killing of Osama bin Laden.

The next accomplishments for Obama people cited were the economy (7 percent) and international issues (6 percent).

Obama’s strength on national security/terrorism issues is, without question, a bit inflated thanks to the relatively recent death of bin Laden — and the positive media attention it produced for the president.

And strategists in both parties believe the 2012 election will be fought on the economy and other domestic issues with things like national security and terrorism — as well as other foreign policy concerns — taking a back seat.

(That calculation is, of course, based on the belief that there will be no major domestic act of terrorism between now and next November. Should such a nightmare scenario come to pass, all bets on what will matter to voters would go out the window.)

But, the domestic focus doesn’t mean that Obama’s strong leadership numbers on national security and terrorism won’t matter in the campaign to come.

“Beyond his competence, voters are going to have to believe in his leadership — that America will be secure and safe under him,” said Democratic pollster Fred Yang. “And ironically, given the heavy focus by the Obama campaign in 2008 on domestic issues, his handling of foreign policy since he became president will likely be an important asset.”

Remember that presidential elections tend to turn less on the candidates’ position on any single issue than the overall feeling that he (or she) engenders in the public.

Put more simply: Intangibles matter. And Obama’s polling strength on national security could well help the incumbent win over voters who are on the fence about his overall performance during his first four years in office.

Gingrich hits bottom: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s campaign isn’t the only thing imploding; so are the candidate’s polling numbers.

A new AP-Gfk poll shows Gingrich’s favorable rating dropping from 35 percent to 26 percent over the last month. His unfavorable rating, meanwhile, is 59 percent. That’s higher than Sarah Palin.

Even among Republicans, just 43 percent favor Gingrich now.

Gingrich, though, says he’s in the race through Iowa.

It was better news for a pair of Minnesotans. Former governor Tim Pawlenty and Rep. Michele Bachmann both saw their favorable numbers rise as people get to know them. Pawlenty’s favorable rating rose by 5 percent, while Bachmann’s rose by 7 percent. Their unfavorables stayed steady.

Bachmann to hit the Sunday shows: A day before jumping into the presidential race Monday, Bachmann will sit down with CBS News’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday for “Face the Nation.”

The interview is a big one for Bachmann, who did well at the debate last week but has avoided a sustained grilling from the media in recent weeks.

It’s not the first time Bachmann has done the show — she appeared in March 2010 and earlier this year opposite then-Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). — but this time will be particularly noteworthy.

While Bachmann has great appeal to the tea party and social conservatives, she’s been a little suspect with her facts from time to time, and Schieffer has been known to push a candidate for answers.

She will begin undergoing some significant scrutiny.


Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has a rough night in front of Latino elected officials.

Former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson (R) gets closer to running for Senate, signing on a pair of fundraisers.

Tim Pawlenty visits Pat Robertson.

Democrats are favored to hold Rep. Jay Inslee’s (D-Wash.) seat as he runs fot governor, with Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) even being mentioned.

Gingrich cheers on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) after Cantor cut off budget talks with the White House on Thursday.

Former New York governor George Pataki: still considering a run for president.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) hopes to raise $3 million over the next week.

Mitt Romney will raise money from expats in London.

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