Terrorism as a campaign issue

Amy Klobuchar
DFL U.S. Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar, at a campaign rally in St. Paul Thursday, praised law enforcment officials who foiled a terrorist plot in London.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

In an otherwise typical campaign rally at the State Capitol, DFL U.S. Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar deviated briefly from her campaign stump speech to address the news of the day.

Klobuchar, the Hennepin County attorney, commended the work of all of the law enforcement agencies involved in shutting down the London terrorist plot.

Kennedy accepts
U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kennedy, a Republican, said terrorism "is a serious issue that one shouldn't play politics with."
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

"Being in law enforcement, I realize that so much of the work is unheralded when plans are thwarted and crimes are uncovered. And from what we know so far today, they have uncovered a major terrorist threat," said Klobuchar. "We know we still live in times of great threat. We know we need to make our security our priority, and I want to thank them and I think we should salute them for the work that they did."

Klobuchar was joined at the rally by former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, who was John Kerry's vice presidential running mate in 2004. Edwards also praised law enforcement officials, while adding his confidence in Klobuchar.

"The people of Minnesota should know, if they're concerned about their safety and security, when this woman is the next United States senator from the state of Minnesota, they will be safe and they will be secure," Edwards said.

Security is also the message coming from U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, who is Klobuchar's Republican opponent in the Senate race. Kennedy issued a news release saying the fight against international terrorism must continue on all fronts.

The attack was unsuccessful and ... life returns, hopefully, to some semblance of normalcy. So perhaps other issues will come back into the political dialogue.

It's a theme Kennedy has stressed throughout the campaign. But he says the latest events in London shouldn't be used for political advantage.

"This is a serious issue that one shouldn't play politics with," said Kennedy. "I think whatever position you take on this, you're going to find that there are people who agree with you and disagree you. I think it's important that this not be something that you politicize and play to the crowds with, but you take what you think is the important way to achieving security for the American family."

Still, most Republicans and Democrats are looking for a political advantage on national security heading into the mid-term congressional elections.

Dan Hofrenning, a political science professor at St. Olaf College in Northfield, says that edge has been easy to predict since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"Opinion poll after opinion poll shows that citizens look to Republicans, or trust Republicans more, to ensure their security in the war on terror," Hofrenning said. "So if the future operates like the past, the political advantage would likely be to the Republicans."

But recent polls show the GOP advantage is eroding. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll conducted before news of the foiled terror plot found that 40 percent approved of President Bush's performance on foreign policy and terrorism. That was down slightly from 44 percent in July.

Hofrenning says terrorism is on the minds of a lot of voters now, but he notes the Nov. 7 election is still months away.

"The attack was unsuccessful and the weeks march on. Life returns, hopefully, to some semblance of normalcy. And so perhaps other issues will come back into the political dialogue," said Hofrenning.

Klobuchar and Kennedy were hardly unique in the hours after authorities revealed the disrupted plot. Candidates in several Minnesota congressional races also weighed in with measured, largely nonpartisan comments on terrorism.