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Analysis: Bin Laden Tape Boosts Bush
With his typical flair for drama, Osama Bin Laden inserted himself directly into the presidential election yesterday, and both parties believed it would boost President Bush's reelection hopes.
Bin Laden popping up like a malignant jack-in-the-box four days before the balloting may bolster John Kerry's argument that Bush should have finished wiping out Al Qaeda before turning his attention to Iraq.
But it also refocused the nation on terrorism, which polls show helps Bush. And it reminds voters of their horror on Sept. 11 and Bush's well-received response, as well as obliterating the recent flood of bad news for Bush.
"We want people to think 'terrorism' for the last four days," said a Bush-Cheney campaign official. "And anything that raises the issue in people's minds is good for us."
A senior GOP strategist added, "anything that makes people nervous about their personal safety helps Bush."
He called it "a little gift," saying it helps the President but doesn't guarantee his reelection.
In the closing weeks of the campaign, Kerry has accused Bush of "letting Bin Laden escape" when he was cornered at Tora Bora by "outsourcing" the job to unreliable Afghan warlords instead of using U.S. troops. And he has mocked Bush for never mentioning the Al Qaeda leader after pledging to get Bin Laden "dead or alive."
But the new tape - which is so nakedly political that it should end with the words "I'm Osama Bin Laden and I approved this message" - makes it difficult for Kerry to keep hammering Bush on the subject without appearing to be capitalizing on terror. Kerry eliminated those lines from his speeches yesterday evening.
"If Kerry had been making this a bigger issue, as he should have been, it would definitely translate to his benefit," said a Democratic strategist with ties to the Kerry camp.
Kerry's staff looked somber.
"It's very important for us to move forward. We're going ahead and doing our events as we would," said spokesman Mike McCurry.
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