Saturday, May 7, 2011

Obama pivots from bin Laden's death to U.S. economy

WASHINGTON, May 7 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama turned on Saturday from national elation over the killing of America's most wanted foe to face the threat that high gasoline prices and unemployment pose to his own 2012 re-election hopes.

Six days after announcing U.S. special forces had killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the president offered a sober message in his weekly radio address that he understood many Americans were still struggling through hard times.

"Although our economy hasn't been the focus of the news this week, not a day goes by that I'm not focused on your jobs, your hopes and your dreams," he said.

Public anger over rising prices at the pump has put pressure on Obama to look for ways to provide quick relief for consumers as he seeks re-election in 2012.

Obama's approval rating jumped sharply after the news of the deadly raid against bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. But the 2012 election will also be fought on issues much closer to home, like the cost of gasoline and a sense of job security.

Average gasoline prices are almost $4 a gallon across the country, up by more than one dollar compared with a year ago, and are a potentially serious risk to his political future.

Republican opponents of Democrat Obama say he could be vulnerable in next year's ballot if gasoline prices push above $5 a gallon, with the economy still fragile.


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