In wake of Osama killing, president gains rare praise from political foes

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It’s not every day that Gov. Rick Scott has kind words for President Barack Obama.

But he did this morning, lauding Obama and the United States military for tracking down and killing Osama bin Laden.

Scott briefly spoke to media after a memorial ceremony recognizing Florida law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

“It was great that we were able to, nationally, we were able to find Osama bin Laden,” Scott said. “You have to commend the president, the armed forces, the special forces that took the risk to go in there to do that, and the fact that we’ve been committed to do this ever since 9/11.”

Florida political experts said on Monday that bin Laden’s death would serve as a coup for Obama, but that any upward impact on Obama’s poll numbers could be short-lived with pressing domestic issues looming large in Americans’ minds. In recent weeks, various polls have shown Obama’s job approval ratings to be roughly the same as voter disapproval. The most recent, a Gallup poll conducted April 29 through May 1, showed Obama’s approval rating to be at 46 percent, just one point higher than his disapproval rating.

“I think it certainly provides President Obama with some cover on international affairs going into the 2012 campaign,” said Daniel Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida. “When you have people like former Vice President Dick Cheney congratulating President Obama for his persistence ... that certainly allays some of the concerns about Obama.”

Peter Bergerson, an elections expert in the Florida Gulf Coast University Division of Public Affairs, said the development will likely have little to no impact on Republican voters’ opinions of Obama, but the difference will lie with swaying independents and energizing Democrats.

“What it really translates into is incumbents are always judged on the performance of their office,” Bergerson said. “This is one where the president will be judged on his most significant role, and that’s the role of security and national defense.”

Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, said the news of bin Laden’s death would help ease some increasing public concern over national security, but she pointed out that polls have showed Americans are overwhelmingly more concerned about domestic issues, including unemployment, rising gas prices and the national debt.

“Certainly the president will get a pretty significant bump in the polls immediately,” MacManus said. “The question is whether the economy will take back over as the main issue.”

Connect with Ryan Mills at and Leslie Williams Hale at

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