The state of the economy is likely to play a much bigger role in the 2012 federal elections than the fate of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, two political strategists told a group of top financial advisors.

Television commentators Donna Brazile and Dana Perino today talked about the announcement that a special forces team has killed bin Laden during a panel discussion at the 2011 annual meeting of the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting (AALU), Reston, Va.

Brazile, a Democratic political strategist who once served as Al Gore’s campaign USAmanager, is now a commentator for CNN and ABC News.

Perino, President Bush’s White House press secretary from 2007 to 2009, is a Fox News contributor.

Brazile and Perino expressed similar views on the announcement of the death of bin Laden.

“I was so grateful to President Obama, people in the intelligence community and those in the military who have given their lives” in the fight against al Qaeda, Perino said. “So many people helped to make Sunday night happen. It took longer than any of us wanted, but we have finally brought bin Laden to justice.”

Brazile said she gave a sigh of relief when she heard the news about bin Laden.

“To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, ‘The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice,’” she said.

But the strategists said the announcement seems unlikely to have much of an effect on the 2012 elections.

“The president is enjoying a small lift in his poll numbers,” Brazile said. “But right now everyone’s main concern is the economy. Ultimately, the president will be graded on whether he can fix the economy…. While we haven’t fully turned corner, we are creating jobs. If Americans believe that the American Dream is still alive, then they’ll support him come election time.”

Perino declined to say who she thinks the 2012 Republican presidential nominee might be.

Real estate mogul Donald Trump, who is currently enjoying heightened media coverage, could

flame out if he fails to give people a reason to vote for him, Perino said.

“What will set [the more serious candidates] apart is whether people buy into their policies and whether the candidates can handle surprises that come their way,” Perino said.

Brazile said the Republican field would be strengthened if former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christy would enter the fray.

Perino predicted that election victory will go to a candidate who secures a majority of votes in a handful of states, such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Nevada, Colorado and North Carolina. Several of those states now have Republican governors, and that will present an organizational challenge for the Democrats, she said.

Brazile predicted that Obama will benefit from a shift to the center of the political spectrum that he has made since the 2010 congressional elections.

Obama’s foreign policy looks increasingly like Bush’s foreign policy, and he negotiated the tax-cut deal that was adopted in December 2010 with Republicans, Brazile said.

Also during the session:

  • Perino said Tea Party candidates are unlikely to affect the 2012 elections to the extent that they affected the 2010 elections, but she also predicted that they will remain a force in politics.
  • Perino said in a response to a question about media bias from the audience that most reporters “try to be fair, but start from left of center.” Brazile disagreed, suggesting that media bias tends to be right-of-center. Many political reporters are incompetent, lazy and engage in sloppy journalism, and few bother to read government reports, such as those published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Brazile said.

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