As the John Kerry campaign tries desperately to find its footing, many polls suggest a prime reason for the decline of its candidate. National surveys show that Americans are growing more confident in George W. Bush's ability to successfully combat terrorism. This may be the single biggest reason that he is now enjoying a lead over his Democratic rival. And if a terrorism warning does come before Election Day, it would be bad political news for Kerry, because voters would be more likely to rally around their current leader.
If heightened warnings do happen, the Kerry campaign might conceivably take a cue from Michael Moore's movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" and argue that any such alerts are cynical attempts by the Bush campaign to take advantage of the situation for political gain. But according to our latest InsiderAdvantage survey, that tactic on behalf of Kerry wouldn't work. The survey asked:
Do you believe that the Bush administration uses terror alerts to gain a political advantage, or do you believe that they use the alerts to draw attention to potential danger?
Used to draw attention to potential danger............58 percent
Used for political advantage.................................27 percent
Don't know.........................................................15 percent
The poll was conducted Aug. 13-14 among 500 Americans. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
That's a huge majority who don't buy into the political hi-jinks theory of terrorist alerts. Even among Democrats polled, less than half believed the White House tries to manipulate public opinion with made-up scares.
The irony of this charge against Bush is that terrorist alerts don't seem to inure to his political benefit anyway. Every time the nation goes on an elevated alert, the stock market tumbles, consumers buy less, travelers travel less, and a vague but palpable cloud of uneasiness hangs in the air.
Of course, the United States hasn't suffered many of these high alerts lately. Sure, the Democratic and Republican conventions and the G-8 summit were all held with fortress-like security. And yes, we've been warned that more attacks on the homeland, or on U.S. interests abroad, are probably inevitable. But the dire warnings of possible imminent attack haven't materialized lately.