The Note: Surprise Party

"Clearly, the bin Laden cameo in the 2004 presidential race has the potential to cut both ways. Weighing in Bush's favor is that Americans have typically rallied around the president when they have felt threatened, and bin Laden's tape is menacing. Also, the fact that bin Laden was making his presence known through a videotape rather than through a Madrid-style attack could be seen as evidence that Bush had done his job of protecting the public."

AP's Tom Raum weighs in with his analysis, weighing the arguments from both sides about how the tape helps or hurts: LINK

"It bolsters President Bush's argument that the world is a dangerous place and plays to his strength as commander in chief in fighting the war on terror. But it also underscores Democratic Sen. John Kerry's criticism of the Republican incumbent for not doing more to hunt down bin Laden, vividly dramatizing that the al Qaida leader still is very much at large more than three years after the attacks on the United States."

He also throws in this bit on the tape itself: "U.S. intelligence officials say they believe the tape was made recently and are intrigued that it carried English subtitles -- a first for the terrorist leader, and a possible indication that it was made mainly for a U.S. audience."

The New York Times' Stevenson and Wilgoren write that Bush and Kerry "sounded remarkably similar notes in the wake of Mr. bin Laden's reappearance" before going into Kerry's criticism of the President's "outsourcing" the hunt for bin Laden and Bush's subsequent rebuke. LINK

"The nuisance is back!" David Brooks writes. LINK

"One of the crucial issues of this election is, Which candidate fundamentally gets the evil represented by this man? Which of these two guys understands it deep in his gut -- not just in his brain or in his policy statements, but who feels it so deep in his soul that it consumes him?"

At the end of a story that explains clearly how quickly bin Laden's tape became the subject of partisan bickering, Rick Klein and Pat Healy of the Boston Globe sneak in a blind quote from a Kerry advisor. LINK

"'Who knows how this will affect the race?' the adviser said. 'I do know that it's not going to change a single thing John Kerry says or does between now and the time polls close on Election Day.'"

That is sort of key, too: any new ads (from outside groups, the parties, or the campaigns)? Any new stump lines? And, if not, does it really drive votes?

Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News reports that a Bush-Cheney campaign official told him, "We want people to think 'terrorism' for the last four days...And anything that raises the issue in people's minds is good for us." The senior GOP strategist added, "anything that makes people nervous about their personal safety helps Bush." The source added the OBL appearance was "a little gift," but it does not guarantee reelection. LINK

"Observers suggested that it was too soon to say how Bin Laden's resurfacing might affect the outcome of the presidential election, if at all," writes Josh Meyer in his Los Angeles Times lead story. LINK

Charlie Cook took on the one hand/other hand duties:

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