The killing of Osama bin Laden, first presented as a moment of national unity by President Obama, has become something else: a political weapon.
Obama's re-election campaign is portraying his risky decision to go after America's top enemy as a defining difference with his Republican presidential opponent, suggesting Mitt Romney might not have had the guts to order a mission that put lives and perhaps a presidency at stake.
"Does anybody doubt that had the mission failed, it would have written the beginning of the end of the president's first term?" Vice President Biden says in laying out Obama's foreign policy campaign message. "We know what President Obama did. We can't say for certain what Gov. Romney would have done."
"Sad," said a Romney spokeswoman. "Shameless," said 2008 Obama election foe John McCain.
Biden even combined the killing of the al-Qaida leader and Obama's support for a failing auto industry into what he called a re-election bumper sticker message.
"It's pretty simple: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive," the vice president said in a speech on Thursday.
Obama's campaign followed that Friday with a new Web video questioning whether Romney would have taken the same path Obama did. It features a quote from a 2007 Romney interview in which he said it was not worth "moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person."
"It's now sad to see the Obama campaign seek to use an event that unified our country to once again divide us, in order to distract voters' attention from the failures of his administration," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
Obama sent in the U.S. forces with no assurance that bin Laden was at the site, leading to a heart-pounding scene in the Situation Room, captured in one of the most famous photos of Obama's presidency.
From that room, Obama will relive the moment in prime time. The White House granted NBC News' Brian Williams access to the Situation Room, and interviews with Obama and top members of his security team, for a special that has been taped and will air on Wednesday.