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Obama Likely to Get Political Boost from bin Laden Demise

Crowds gathers outside the White House in Washington early Moday to celebrate after President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden, May 2, 2011
Crowds gathers outside the White House in Washington early Moday to celebrate after President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden, May 2, 2011

In the wake of the announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. commandos in Pakistan, there were spontaneous outpourings of celebration and national pride in New York and Washington.

A tourist from Texas celebrated with New Yorkers in Times Square.

"I can not tell you the national pride that I feel here and visiting from Texas, being in Times Square when this was announced there is so much pride for our country," said the tourist.

New Yorker Bill Doyle lost his son Joey in the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center. He told ABC News that relatives of the 9-11 victims appreciated the fact that President Obama followed through on his pledge to hunt down bin Laden.

"Mr. Obama, President Obama, he made it known when he got elected that this was going to be his priority and kept his word. He got him," Doyle said.

There was praise too from congressional Republicans, some of whom have been critical of Mr. Obama’s pursuit of the war on terror.

New York Congressman Peter King spoke on NBC’s Today program.

"This whole situation began under President Bush and it was continued and now carried to a conclusion, a very successful conclusion, by President Obama and he deserves full credit," King said.

Democrats were quick to give the president credit as well, including Senate Majority leader Harry Reid.

"This though is a direct result of President Obama’s efforts to refocus on Afghanistan and Pakistan as a central battleground in our fight against terror," Reid said.

In announcing bin Laden’s death, President Obama said he hoped the news would help bring the country closer together.

"Let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed," said the president. "Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people."

A screen grab from FBI's Most Wanted website taken May 2, 2011 shows the status of Osama bin Laden as deceased
A screen grab from FBI's Most Wanted website taken May 2, 2011 shows the status of Osama bin Laden as deceased

To many Americans, Osama bin Laden was the face of evil and public enemy number one in the war on terror.

Matt Dallek teaches politics at the University of California’s Washington Center. Dallek says bin Laden’s death serves as a welcome counterpoint to years of frustration in the U.S.-led manhunt for the al-Qaida leader.

"The wounds have become less raw, so to speak," said Dallek. "I think what you are seeing in the streets of Washington and New York, at least, is this kind of emotional catharsis and I think it brings back all kinds of memories for the country. Capturing him, I think, is psychologically for the country a big deal."

Like many political analysts, Dallek sees some immediate political benefit for the president in the wake of bin Laden’s death, especially in rebutting longstanding Republican critics of the president’s handling of the war on terror.

"The attack, right, is that he is too weak and that he is leading from behind and I think this changes the dynamic and I think it changes that debate in substantive and lasting ways," said Dallek.

Some experts believe the demise of bin Laden gives President Obama a huge advantage heading into next year’s re-election campaign.

Robert Guttman is with the School for Advanced International Studies in Washington.

"It certainly gives a boost to President Obama’s re-election chances. In fact, if you ask me I would say the election is over as of today," said Guttman.

Most analysts are not prepared to go that far. Matt Dallek cautions that economic issues, not foreign policy, remain the top voter concerns looking ahead to the 2012 campaign.

"It is hard to know how much the American people going into the voting booth in November of 2012 are going to remember about Osama bin Laden when they pull the lever to vote for president,"

The expected boost comes at a good time for the president. His public approval ratings in several polls have declined recently mainly over concerns about the economy and rising gas prices.

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