How Killing Osama Might Matter Politically

I’m largely of the view that expecting a military success in Pakistan in the spring of 2011 to impact an election held in the fall of 2012 is a mistake. But since I’m generally a “nothing matters” nihilist about such things, it’s worth offering the counter-case. Here I think the exception that proves the rule is George HW Bush who had enormous foreign policy successes, saw his approval ratings shoot up to sky-high levels, and nonetheless lost (and pretty badly) in 1992 because of poor economic conditions.

Even though I don’t think it’s plausible that voters will reward Obama retroactively from this success in November 2012, it is plausible that Obama’s approval ratings will go up in the short-term. And that could change the political dynamic in DC in a number of ways and that, in turn, could to things happening that have a real impact on the economy. The recession the GHWB administration weathered was well into the “normal” range where the Fed was the only macroeconomically relevant actor. That’s not the case today, so giving Barack Obama a stronger hand in various congressional negotiations could change things.