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Terror Plot Could Have Impact on US Elections

The foiling of the terror plot in Britain targeting U.S. airliners could have a political impact on U.S. congressional elections in November.

 The plot to detonate homemade bombs on U.S. airliners has refocused public attention on the threat of terrorism, and brought words of warning from President Bush. "It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America," said the president.

The arrests in connection with the terror plot came only two days after dramatic election results from the northeastern state of Connecticut, where the war in Iraq was a pivotal issue.

Political newcomer Ned Lamont narrowly defeated veteran Senator Joseph Lieberman in the Democratic Party primary by focusing on Lieberman's support for the Iraq war.

"It is an issue about the war [in Iraq], but it is an issue also about what kind of a country we are," he said. "I think people are tired of spending all that money in Iraq. They want to start investing in our country again."

Political analysts saw the Lieberman defeat as a signal that public unhappiness with the war in Iraq could help Democrats retake control of one or both chambers of Congress for the first time since 1994.

Thomas Mann, a political expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, appeared on VOA's Talk to America program.

"I think, if Democrats keep the focus on the problems in Iraq, rather than debate just what to do from here on out, they will ride a tidal wave to victory in November, in spite of the differences that seemed to emerge in this primary contest," he said.

But the foiling of the terror plot in Britain and the renewed focus on the threat of terrorism has helped Republicans shift the debate away from Iraq.

Vice President Dick Cheney said the Lieberman defeat raised questions about whether the Democratic Party was prepared to lead the nation during dangerous times.

It was a theme echoed by presidential spokesman Tony Snow. "Osama bin Laden some years ago said that, one of the keys is that, if you simply stay at terror long enough, the West is too weak. He said the Americans were too weak, and would stand down," said Snow.

Democrats fired back, accusing Republicans of playing politics with the issue of terrorism. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said the terror plot in Britain shows the need to change course in Iraq, and refocus resources on keeping Americans safe from terrorist attack.

For most of this year, public opinion polls have suggested Democrats have an advantage on issues like Iraq, the economy and domestic fuel prices heading into the November election.

But analyst Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report says that, if terrorism emerges as the central issue in the congressional election campaign, Republicans would likely benefit.

"In fact, when you look at the whole litany of issues out there that voters are interested in, terrorism is basically the one issue in which Republicans have an advantage over Democrats," she said.

That is why many experts predict that Democrats will try to make Iraq the central issue in November, while Republicans will attempt to keep the focus on the war on terror.

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