Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Prevention of the plan to destroy 10 jetliners bound for America has sharply boosted President Bush's approval scores for his handling of the war on terrorism and homeland security.

This week's improved poll numbers was a political justification of Bush's laser-like focus on the terrorist threat that his Democratic critics dismissed as fear mongering and campaign hysteria meant to frighten Americans into voting Republican.

But the Islamic bomb plot, uncovered by British intelligence, with the assistance of other countries, including Pakistan and the United States, was a chilling reminder the terrorist war is real and the jihadists' desire to kill as many of us as they can remains a central issue in the midterm elections. It was also a grim reminder that events in the next three months could swing this election in one direction or another. What if yet another plot, this time right here in the United States, is disclosed? What if Osama bin Laden is killed or captured?

Reporting the poll's findings, Newsweek's Marcus Mabry noted, "The most murderous terror plot to be publicly exposed since 9/11 disrupted more than air travel. It roiled public opinion, too."

The poll of more than 1,000 Americans still showed Bush's problems across a range of issues, including the Iraq war, but it also showed "a significant boost in voters' opinions of his handling of the terror threat." A hefty 55 percent majority now approve of Bush's handling of the war on terrorism and protecting homeland security, a big 11-point boost since May (40 percent still disapprove).

It also exposed the correlation between terrorist threats and the president's approval ratings. In the ebb and flow of competing issues in any election, voters sometimes need reminding when key issues fade or are shoved aside by other news events.

The sinister revelation that terrorists were planning to blow up passenger planes flying from Great Britain to the United States, and possibly from here to there, too, knocked competing stories -- from Israel's battle with Hezbollah to the war in Iraq -- off the nation's front pages.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.