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Osama bin Laden gets heavy emphasis in convention's final night

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democrats repeatedly invoked President Obama's decision to order the raid against Osama bin Laden in their highest-profile speeches on the final night of their convention, culminating with Obama's own acceptance speech.

Four years after his nomination at the 2008 convention in Denver, the president said, “a new tower rises above the New York skyline, al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama bin Laden is dead.”

The roaring crowd responded with cries of “USA, USA” as they waved the flags that had been handed out to them just before the president's speech.

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The emphasis offers clear evidence that Democrats have decided they have a political winner on their hands, despite concerns that they have could be seen as spiking the football and sidelining the troops. They hope the difficult choice to order the risky raid will consolidate Obama's existing lead on national security over Republican candidate Mitt Romney, whose campaign is focused almost exclusively on the bad economy.

The references started with Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who reminded voters about Romney's comments that finding bin Laden was “not worth moving heaven and earth for.”

“Tonight,” Schweitzer said, “bin Laden isn't on earth, and he sure isn't in heaven. Thanks to the courage of American Special Forces and the bold leadership of our president, Osama bin Laden is at the bottom of the ocean.”

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) followed up in the main foreign policy speech of the convention.

“Ask Osama bin Laden if he's better off now than he was four years ago,” Kerry told the Democratic National Convention to wild applause accompanied by high-fives and fist-bumps in the crowd.

“That's what I'm talking about!” one young delegate exhorted.

And Vice President Biden reserved several minutes of his speech to persuade voters that the decision to go after bin Laden was in fact a difficult one.

“We sat for days in the Situation Room,” Biden said. Obama “listened to the risks and reservations about the raid. And he asked the tough questions. But when [U.S. Special Operations Commander] Admiral [Bill] McRaven looked him in the eye and said: 'Sir, we can get this done,' I knew at that moment Barack had made his decision.

“His response was decisive. He said do it. And justice was done.”

Biden then repeated Romney's comments that "it's not worth moving heaven and earth, and spending billions of dollars, just trying to catch one person."

In the 2007 Associated Press interview, Romney also said there would be an “insignificant increase in safety” if bin Laden was captured or killed because he would soon be replaced by another Jihadi leader. Instead, Romney said then, he favored a “broader strategy to defeat the Islamic Jihad movement,” according to the AP.

“He was wrong,” Biden said Thursday. “If you understood that America's heart had to be healed, you would have done exactly what the President did. And you too would have moved heaven and earth – to hunt down bin Laden, and bring him to justice.”

After the speeches, a number of Democrats brushed aside any concern that the heavy emphasis on killing bin Laden would open the party to charges of politicizing vital security matters, calling the convention’s handling of the issue wholly appropriate.

And, they added, the way they dealt with the issue served as a stark contrast to last week’s GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., where Mitt Romney talked about bin Laden but didn’t mention the war in Afghanistan.

“It is impossible to mention too often that he successfully took out the greatest mass terrorist in American history,” said former Sen. Evan Bayh, a centrist Democrat from Indiana who did not seek reelection in 2010.
 
“It’s a fact. And if [Obama] had not ordered the strike, I am sure his opponents would accuse him of being soft on terrorism. It was mentioned a number of times, but appropriately so,” Bayh told The Hill in the Time Warner Cable Arena after Obama’s speech.

For his part, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told The Hill that Republicans had been pointedly asking whether Americans were better off than they were four years ago – and Democrats could legitimately respond that the nation was safer.

And other Democrats added that the bin Laden mentions were also a way to show support for U.S. service members, with veterans’ care also being a central issue for First Lady Michelle Obama.

“I think it’s important to continue reminding the American people that we brought a man to justice who slaughtered 3,000 innocent Americans,” said Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), a member of the Intelligence Committee. “I don’t think there’s any spiking the football in that context, given the tasteful way in which that was presented.”

— This story was updated at 12:39 a.m.