The arrest of terror suspects in London has helped buoy President Bush to his highest approval rating in six months and dampen Democratic congressional prospects to their lowest in a year.
In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, support for an unnamed Democratic congressional candidate over a Republican one narrowed to 2 percentage points, 47%-45%, among registered voters. Over the past year, Democrats have led by wider margins that ranged up to 16 points.
Now 42% of Americans say they approve of the job Bush is doing as president, up 5 points since early this month. His approval rating on handling terrorism is 55%, the highest in more than a year.
The boost may prove to be temporary, but it was evidence of the continuing political power of terrorism.
"The arrests reminded people that terrorists were out there, and this is his strong suit," says political scientist Gary Jacobson of the University of California, San Diego. Now, as in 2002 and 2004, Bush and GOP congressional candidates argue that they can be better trusted to combat terrorism.
The alleged plot to bomb flights to the USA "also changes the subject of public discussion from the war in Iraq, which people are not very happy about," says Christopher Gelpi, a political scientist at Duke University.