Success in Libya Unlikely to Aid Obama's Re-election Chances

Little bounce seen from death of dictator Mummar Qadhafi


Praise keeps pouring in for President Obama's handling of the crisis in Libya that led to the death of former dictator Muammar Qadhafi, but it's unlikely to enhance Obama's prospects for re-election.

That's because, in poll after poll, most Americans are concerned about unemployment and the economy rather than national security. About 70 percent of voters say the country is headed in the wrong direction, stemming largely from growing problems at home, not abroad. [Read: 7 Challenges for a Post-Qadhafi Libya.]

Amog those who have praised Obama's careful and restrained approach to Libya was Sen. John McCain of Arizona, an influential voice on national-security issues who was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. McCain told Fox News, "This is a victory for the president, the Obama administration, but most importantly" for the Libyan people. McCain's was a widely held view in Washington.

For his part, Obama said the occasion of Qadhafi's death marked "the end of a long and painful chapter" in Libyan history and was a "momentous day" for Libya's people. [Read: Rebel victory in Libya is a vindication for Obama.]

The deposing of Qadhafi is the latest in a series of foreign-policy successes for the administration. Obama earlier ordered the U.S. mission that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, and he approved the separate operation that led to the death of terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki last month. He is also winding down the Iraq war, a move which many Americans favor.

The problem for Obama is that national security and foreign policy are far down the list of public concerns.

[Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the Middle East uprisings.]

And the fate of Libya is far from settled because no one knows the kind of regime that will replace Qadhafi. Obama warned that, "There will be difficult days ahead. But the United States, together with the international community, is committed to the Libyan people. You have won your revolution. Now we will be a partner as you forge a future that provides dignity, freedom and opportunity."

Obama added that Qadhafi's death vindicated his policy of supporting the Libyan rebels with air power and in other ways but not committing U.S. combat troops on the ground. "Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we have achieved our objectives," Obama said.

  • See photos of unrest in Libya.
  • Read Stephen Glain: With Libya Victory, Obama Should Exit NATO
  • Vote: Can the Rebels in Libya Be Trusted?