With the death of former Libya dictator Mommar Qaddafi, and the announcement that the Iraq War is coming to end, President Obama has been on a roll with foreign policy over the last six months since the takedown of Osama bin Laden. And while Obama is likely to play up his foreign policy accomplishments on the campaign trail, a struggling economy still heavily looms over his re-election bid.
But this hasn’t prevented Obama’s campaign from trying to find ways to maximize his foreign policy success. One approach is to contrast them with Congress' partisan-driven gridlock on taxes, the deficit and other domestic issues.
The Democrats hope that the American people will see a bold and more than capable president in Obama who keeps his promises when Republicans don't create roadblocks. They note that he green-lighted a daring nighttime raid to kill bin Laden in Pakistan on May 1; approved policies that led to last month's drone-missile killing of American-born terror advocate Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen; backed allied actions that led to Libyan leader Qaddafi's ouster and death; and is officially ending U.S. involvement in Iraq on schedule.
The list of achievements, contrasted with President George W. Bush's erroneous claims about Iraq's weaponry in the first place, should help Democrats shake their image of being the weaker party on national security. Translating that claim into votes for Obama 13 months from now may be difficult, however. The latest Associated Press poll confirmed that Americans still place a far greater emphasis on domestic issues, especially the economy, than on foreign matters, including the war on terrorism.
The poll found that Obama's overall approval rating is at an all-time low, 46 percent, for the second straight month, even though 64 percent of adults approved of his handling of terrorism. Only about 40 percent approved of his handling of the economy.
Ninety-three percent of those questioned said the economy was an extremely or very important issue. By comparison, 73 percent put the same emphasis on terrorism.
Democratic officials believe Obama's foreign policy record will look even better when the Republican presidential candidates hold a debate on that topic Nov. 15. Leading contenders Mitt Romney and Rick Perry are current or former governors, while Herman Cain has never held public office. So none of the GOP candidates have any extensive foreign policy experience if at all.
Voters routinely accept that, however. In recent presidential elections they have chosen governors from Georgia, California, Arkansas and Texas, plus a first-term senator, Obama.
On Friday, Romney and Perry criticized Obama's handling of Iraq. "President Obama's astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women," Romney said.
Perry said in a statement: "I'm deeply concerned that President Obama is putting political expediency ahead of sound military and security judgment by announcing an end to troop level negotiations and a withdrawal from Iraq by year's end."
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said Obama "kept his pledge to the nation to end the war in Iraq in a responsible way, he has promoted our security in Afghanistan, and eliminated key Al Qaeda leaders while strengthening American leadership around the world."
Long-time Republican strategist Rich Galen said the economy clearly will dominate the 2012 election, and it might undo Obama. As for Obama's foreign record, however, Galen said, "they're doing exactly the right thing" by highlighting every success they can.