MORE than any other single individual, more than George W. Bush, more than John Kerry, it is Osama bin Laden who will determine the winner of the election in November.
If Americans feel that they are at war, they will rally to Bush. By a strong majority, they feel that he is the best candidate to keep America safe, prosecute the War on Terror, and — even on his worst days — stabilize Iraq. But if they feel that the war is over or winding down, they are likely to vote for Kerry. By similar majorities, most surveys indicate that voters trust him more to create jobs, help the economy, lower health-care costs, stabilize Medicare and Social Security, reduce prescription drug prices, help improve education and protect the environment.
And he concludes:
If, God forbid, [Osama] penetrates our guard and actually succeeds in pulling off a terror strike in the United States, will it help or hurt Bush?
My bet is that it will help. While many will criticize the president for failing to prevent the attack, the immediate reaction will be to rally around the White House and to grasp that we live in a dangerous world and that Bush’s superior commitment to fighting terror effectively is the way to go. While nations like France and Spain can be counted upon to react to a terror strike by surrendering and running for cover, the likely American reaction would be quite the opposite — just as Israel’s has been.
Voters face a tough decision in November: Are we at war or at peace. Their quandary is reminiscent of that which British voters faced in June of 1945 when they had to vote for Winston Churchill’s Conservatives or Clement Atlee’s Laborites. Despite the continuing war with Japan, they reacted to Hitler’s suicide and Germany’s surrender the month before the elections to vote for Labor and embrace a peacetime agenda.
But this year, I think that bin Laden will remind us frequently and graphically that we are at war. And I think that may re-elect George W. Bush.
Morris seems pretty sure of himself, but I’m not so convinced. Recently I’ve begun to think that another terrorist attack will pretty much doom Bush’s re-election chances (especially if that attack ends up assassinating him). It seems that Kerry has pushed strong enough on the “I’m-a-tough-guy-and-I-can-do-national-defense” thing that he’s made up ground in that area, and after some recent statements he has sounded awfully hawkish about Iraq (almost as hawkish as Bush). So, Kerry now doesn’t seem like as much as a pansy as he did a few months ago. Furthermore, if Bush lets another major attack happen on his watch, that will be two huge strikes for him. Would people really want to let him have a chance at a third strike? Sometimes I think that after another major terrorist attack there would be enough doubt about Bush’s policy on national defense to gut his re-election chances.