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The Politics of Terror

Does the liquid terror plot help the Democrats going into the midterms? A Washington Post-ABC News poll, conducted last week, found Democrats with the edge on terrorism:

Unlike in the 2004 election, when Republicans clearly benefited from the terrorism issue and a general sense of insecurity among many voters, the politics are muddled this year. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, conducted last week, found Democrats with an eight-point edge when people were asked which party they trusted more to handle terrorism issues.

"I can't help but admit that I had a small knot in my stomach this morning," said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. "It was eerily familiar. But upon reflection, we are in a fundamentally different place in 2006 than we were in 2002 and 2004. For two or three generations, Republicans have, in the main, had a very substantial advantage on national security. The reality is, they have squandered that advantage in the sands of Iraq."

In the Post poll, 47 percent approved of Bush's handling of the terrorism issue, a 10-point drop from a similar stage two years ago. But Republican strategists say the polling misses the political significance of the new focus on terrorism and war. Conservatives are generally unhappy with the party over issues such as immigration and federal spending, but they care more about security matters than any other group, and their motivation to vote Republican may now resurface.

I don't particularly buy that, on its face. But I'm willing to be persuaded. Let's see how the same numbers come out next week -- after a major terror plot has been thwarted on Bush's watch.