U.S. News

New U.S. threat unlikely to help Democrats in polls

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The rapid response by U.S. President Barack Obama to explosive materials being sent from Yemen to the United States probably will not help his fellow Democrats in the upcoming congressional elections.

* Obama came out quickly in an televised briefing to address concerns about the threat, confirming that the packages came from Yemen, a hotbed of anti-American militancy, and contained explosive material. He said the U.S. government would beef up cargo screening, but so far there was little impact on passenger air travel. [nN29119799]

* Because the packages originated in Yemen, investigators are examining possible connections to al Qaeda militants in the Arabian Peninsula who were behind the failed Christmas Day attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner flying from Amsterdam to Detroit. They will also have to determine if it was a hoax.

* The Obama administration’s response received praise from Republicans, who slammed the White House for responding too slowly to the Christmas plot. The top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee Peter King said on Fox News that “the administration has done an outstanding job on this.”

* The upcoming congressional elections have mostly focused on economic issues, not terrorism, so it will not likely help Obama’s fellow Democrats who are expected to lose control of the House of Representatives and face a narrower majority in the Senate.

* “The election is cooked and done,” said Larry Sabato, a politics professor at the University of Virginia. “Only a military response could have an effect on the election ... This is not an election about terrorism, it’s an election about the economy.”

* White House spokesman Robert Gibbs brushed aside questions about the timing of the latest threat. “Counterterrorism officials at all levels of our government quickly went into action in order to take the steps necessary to protect the American people. That is exactly what has governed his actions and the actions of those in this government since that time.”

Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Anthony Boadle