The Obama Bounce Is Real

Barack Obama

President Obama was widely expected to get a big “bounce” (in the polls) following the successful raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideaway in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  Get it he did.  

His national approval rating rose smartly in the daily Gallup tracking poll.  His approval ratings for managing the Afghanistan War specifically and the fight against terrorism generally surged

Nothing succeeds like success.  The successful execution of Osama bin Laden by Seal Team Six has given President Obama the best week of his presidency.

There are two competing narratives battling for salience in the 2012 presidential campaign.  The first casts President Obama as Jimmy Carter redux; hapless manager of the nation’s economy and weak and dithering commander-in-chief.  This was the narrative the GOP was hoping would hang over the president’s re-election campaign. The second casts President Obama as centrist Democrat navigating difficult straits — and making difficult decisions — under constant attack from deranged right-wingers. This is the narrative the White House would like you to “read.”

Prior to the raid by Seal Team Six, President Obama seemed to be drifting toward the Carter caricature. Today, he appears tough and decisive and, most important, successful. As the Gallup data indicate, the dithering image that was starting to stick has been erased. That gives President Obama a lot of latitude with the electorate.  Questions about his toughness and decisiveness have been rendered moot, at least for the time being.

Politicians and political professionals like to look at local polling results for clues about what is happening on the national level.  Specifically, they look at poll data from so-called “swing states” to gauge the impact of events.  A “swing state” in the 2012 election is Virginia, which President Obama carried (barely) in 2008 but which seemed to be slipping away from him in the past few months.

Not anymore.  A new Washington Post survey of Virginia voters may be the best “bounce” news the White House has received since the raid on Osama bin Laden. His approval rating in Virginia has jumped.  His re-elect numbers are much improved.  In one fell swoop, he’s gone from downward facing dog to re-energized front-runner.

As they say in the securities business, past performance is not a guarantee of future success.  But President Obama’s recent performance improves the possibility of his future success.  Looked at from the GOP point of view, the job of unseating him is now harder, maybe much harder, than it was two weeks ago.