By popular demand, here’s a brief comment on how the recent Osama bin Laden news might affect the 2012 presidential election. Sorry it took me a few days to get this up, I’ve been busy reading the fascinating coverage of the issue (and grading a mountain of papers from my GOV 110 students, but that’s another story).
Most political commentators have generally opined that President Obama will undoubtedly get a 5-10% bump in his approval ratings for a few weeks, but that the bin Laden news will likely play only a very minor role in driving the outcome of the 2012 president election, if at all (see here, here, and here, e.g.). A political science perspective would agree: the fundamentals of American presidential election outcomes are a combination of 1) the economy and 2) presidential popularity. After the fundamentals are in place, smaller factors like issues, campaign strategies/events, debates, etc. make some marginal differences.
If anything, the bin Laden issue will fit in this second category of “smaller factors” that might make a difference at the margins. And given that Americans have extremely short political memories, they’ll likely have to be reminded about it, either through debates or campaign commercials, for it to make even that marginal difference.