While campaigning took a respite in Massachusetts following the bombings in Boston Monday, the politics of terror will move to the forefront in the minds of voters, both in the state and nationally.
All five candidates seeking nomination in the special election to succeed Secretary of State John Kerry in the Senate — two Democrats and three Republicans — immediately suspended their campaigns.
The same is true for all of the candidates vying in the non-partisan election this fall to succeed Boston’s longest-serving mayor, Thomas Menino, who is stepping down after 20 years.
But as resonant as this message that tragedy transcends politics was this week, it is not very likely that it will continue throughout the election.
Boston and the nation will grieve but the Bay State is not going to postpone its U.S. Senate primary in two weeks on April 30, or the special election to succeed Kerry on June 25.
And it seems a good bet that following a reasonable period of mourning, the Senate candidates will restart the partisan rhetoric once again.
If there is any impact on their race from the explosions, it could be that of injecting the issues of law enforcement and the war on terrorism into the campaign. If so, Republican hopeful Michael Sullivan may be the candidate who gains the most because of his own law enforcement background as a former U.S. Attorney.
In addition, liberal GOP contender Gabriel Gomez — under fire for admitting he supported Barack Obama in 2008 — is getting considerable press attention as the only Senate candidate who participated in the Boston Marathon. Gomez finished the race before the explosions and was unharmed.
As for the impact of the explosions on the mayoral race, Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley seems likely to emerge from the tragedy in much the same way then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani did after 9/11 — as someone in charge.
Conley was the only mayoral hopeful at the Tuesday morning press conference of city officials in Boston discussing the explosions and received considerable exposure on national news shows.
As for national politics, it would not be surprising if the tragic events in Boston thrust the issue of the war on terror back in the political arena, right there with immigration reform, gun control, and the budget.
This is the first time since 9/11 that there has been an “act of terror” on U.S. soil and one could easily see candidates seeking office on campaigns of who would be tougher on terrorism, seeking an even stronger Patriot Act, and calling for stronger penalties for terrorists, foreign-born and home-grown.
“Law and order,” to use the political shorthand of the 1960s and 1970s, could well be back in vogue on the campaign trail in 2014.
John Gizzi is the former political editor for Human Events, working for the conservative weekly from 1979 to 2013. Gizzi is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence, was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002, and has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV talk shows.
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