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A game-changer? Two different opinions

In his column today, political analyst Charlie Cook doesn't believe that Osama bin Laden's death will be a game-changer for President Obama.

The numbers of long-term unemployed are troubling. The enormous growth in demand for energy, particularly oil and gasoline in China, India, and other emerging economies threatens to keep energy prices unstable. Add to that the political instability in the
Middle East and North Africa, which are trouble spots from energy, security, and humanitarian perspectives.

But for Obama and Democrats, this is a B-12 shot in the arm, or adrenaline, a great rush and a welcomed respite. But it’s not a cure.

Andrew Sullivan has a different opinion: It smashes the perceptions that Obama is a weak leader and doesn't believe in "American exceptionalism."

But the capture and killing of bin Laden ... does two things instantly: it tells us that an American named Barack Hussein Obama ordered the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. A man who symbolizes an integrative, tolerant, multicultural future defeated the symbol of a twisted, dark, fundamentalist past. A man who represents the human continuum of the developing and developed worlds defeated a man who seeks only one world and Shariah rule over all of it. And it also tells those who have been bombarded with lies and rumors and disgusting smears that this president, whatever they have been told, is no weakling, no terror-lover, no alien. He is as American as every new passport holder and every ancient Southern or Yankee family.

In the past several months, we've seen Obama's approval ratings surge above 50% (after his accomplishments in the lame-duck session of Congress and after the Tucson shootings), and we've seen it return to the mid- to high-40s (after higher gas prices and increased instability in the Middle East).

This seems to suggest two things:
1) Despite the worst of news for Obama -- high gas prices, Middle East instability, partisan messiness in averting a government shutdown -- Obama's base of support keeps him in the mid-40s. So if things do get better, he gets closer to that important 50% threshold.

2) Despite the best of news for him before Sunday -- after his Giffords speech -- his approval rating in the NBC/WSJ poll reached 53%, which would still result in a competitive general-election. (Obama defeated McCain in 2008, 53%-46%.)

Yet, as we wrote on Monday, what's more important for Obama's 2012 prospects than his poll numbers is the nation's overall psyche. Despite good economic news over the past few months -- the unemployment rate has decline, job creation is up -- the United States remains in a four-year national funk.

Obama’s presidential victory in 2008 boosted spirits (particularly Democratic ones), despite the sinking economy. And the GOP’s midterm wins in 2010 boosted Republican and Tea Party spirits. Yet nothing has united Democrats, Republicans, independents, and everyone else -- until now. As President Obama remarked last night, “Let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.” There was never going to be a V-E Day after 9/11, but this is as close as the country will get to one.