Polls don’t show a big bump for Obama

It was commonly accepted in the aftermath of Sunday’s news about Osama bin Laden that President Barack Obama would receive a bump in the polls. As you may remember, George W. Bush’s approval ratings jumped significantly in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. And while Obama is seeing improved numbers since the announcement of bin Laden’s death, the bump is relatively small:

In the immediate aftermath of the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden, President Obama’s approval rating has jumped higher, with big increases in the number of Americans giving him high marks on dealing with terrorism and the situation in Afghanistan.

But the new poll, conducted Monday evening by The Washington Post and the Pew Research Center, also finds virtually no movement in Obama’s numbers when it comes to handling the economy. That suggests that success on one front — even one as important as the death of the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — might not translate easily to other areas.

Overall, 56 percent of those polled say they approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president, an increase of nine percentage points over April polls by Post-ABC News and Pew. That is the highest approval rating for the president in either poll since 2009.

There’s also been a clear increase in public satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States, although by a margin of nearly 2-1, Americans are still dissatisfied with the direction of the country.

The president gets big bounces on dealing with Afghanistan, with his approval rating soaring to 60 percent, and on handling the threat of terrorism, where he recorded a career high of 69 percent.

The numbers are not as high as I though they’d be. Maybe it just hasn’t hit home yet. Maybe we’ve just become that realistic as a country; that while we realize bin Laden’s being brought to justice is important, we realize it doesn’t necessarily change anything.

Many are observers are saying that Obama’s re-election is a lock at this point, but political analyst Charlie Cook surmises that bin Laden’s death is not a gamechanger for 2012:

Democrats will fervently hope that the public will see this as a seminal moment in which people begin to see and appreciate President Obama in a new light, much as President Bill Clinton’s speech after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, in retrospect, was a turning point for his presidency.

But it might be a mistake to assume that it is a more enduring game-changer in terms of the politics of 2012 or that it will recast Obama as much as it did for Clinton.

Unlike last year, the country was not facing stubbornly high unemployment coming out of an anemic recovery, and gasoline prices were not close to $4 per gallon.

The challenges of 1995 were very different; the headwinds Obama is facing are more formidable and largely outside of his control.

The numbers of long-term unemployed are troubling. The enormous growth in demand for energy, particularly oil and gasoline in China, India, and other emerging economies threatens to keep energy prices unstable. Add to that the political instability in the Middle East and North Africa, which are trouble spots from energy, security, and humanitarian perspectives.

But for Obama and Democrats, this is a B-12 shot in the arm, or adrenaline, a great rush and a welcomed respite. But it’s not a cure.

I do think the odds are on Obama’s side in 2012, even without these last fews days. The lack of a strong Republican field plays heavily into his hands. It’s like 1996 all over again.

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