But political analysts and Republican critics say Obama is taking a risk in claiming credit for something that as recently as his January State of the Union address he described as a testament to the courage, selflessness and teamwork of America s armed forces.
In a series of videos and speeches leading up to the Wednesday anniversary of the raid, the Obama campaign, through high-profile proxies such as Vice President Biden and former President Bill Clinton, has made the president the star of the story. Biden and others have also suggested that Obama s rival, the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, would not have pursued bin Laden with the same determination.
He deserves the right to crow about it a little, but he has to be careful, given how many other issues are out there, even on the counter-terrorism front, said Michael E. O Hanlon , a senior foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution.
O Hanlon said that if there is a terrorist attack against the United States or other foreign policy failures before election day, It would look odd in the midst of all this self-congratulation over bin Laden.
But if the election does turn on the economy, for a Democratic president, that s already progress, O Hanlon continued. To inoculate oneself against foreign policy attack should not be underrated as a political accomplishment.
Obama campaigned four years ago on a pledge to end partisanship in Washington, and some analysts say the new focus he has placed on his role in the bin Laden killing may undermine that image in the minds of swing voters that proved decisive in 2008.
At the same time, Obama s decision to authorize the raid over the objection of some key advisers could blunt Romney s ongoing attempts to portray the president as weak abroad, even as Iran s nuclear-enrichment program and Syria s brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrators continue to defy U.S. policy to end them.
How much Obama s foreign policy record will influence voters in an election year where the economic recovery remains fragile is unclear. Obama received only a brief bump in his approval rating following bin Laden s death.
But in contrast to domestic policy, where Congress has a far larger role to play, a president is able to stake a far clearer claim to foreign policy success and carve out, for better or worse, a distinct record. Voters often view a president s leadership on those issues as a proxy for overall character.
For Democratic incumbents, in particular, a successful foreign policy record can help address broader concerns over competence and resolve or reinforce them. The politically enervating Iran hostage crisis and failed rescue attempt helped doom Jimmy Carter s bid for a second term.