Campaigns scramble to respond to Bhutto's death
Nick Juliano
Published: Thursday December 27, 2007 |
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The suicide bombing that claimed former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has upended the US presidential campaigns just a week before voters in Iowa head out to caucus.

"Still, the instant conventional wisdom will say that heavy news coverage of the gun and bomb attack will bolster the arguments of Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), both members of the Armed Services Committee. ... That same instant C.W. will say that the candidates most damaged will be Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R)," report The Politico's Mike Allen, Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith.

Clinton will shift her planned topics in a speech Thursday after the opposition leader's death, and her campaign tells a Wall Street Journal blog that it expects the assassination will prevent rival Obama from criticizing her and former Sen. John Edwards.

Obama released the following statement on Bhutto's death, which was sent to RAW STORY Thursday:

“I am shocked and saddened by the death of Benazir Bhutto in this terrorist atrocity. She was a respected and resilient advocate for the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people. We join with them in mourning her loss, and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world."

In an ad announced Wednesday Clinton reminds voters that the US is a "nation at war" and says she would be the "steady hand" necessary to resolve the crises facing the country.

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), a second-tier Democratic candidate, also released a statement:

"This is a terrible day. My heart goes out to Benazir Bhutto's family, friends and followers. Like her father before her, Benazir Bhutto worked her whole life -- and gave her life -- to help Pakistan become a democratic, secular and modern Muslim country...It was a privilege to know her these many years and to call her a friend."

Biden will use Bhutto's death to stress his foreign policy credentials as he continues his push for an upset in Iowa's Jan. 3 caucus, according to the Journal's Washington Wire blog.

Before news broke about Bhutto, Biden's campaign announced a new ad to air in Iowa touting his 35 years of experience in global affairs.

"Biden’s supporters also frequently note that it was Biden — and not President Bush — who Musharraf and Bhutto sought out during the crisis earlier this year after Musharraf declared emergency rule," Susan Davis reports in Washington Wire.

On the GOP front, the attack could complement Rudy Giuliani's attempt to reinsert national security concerns into the presidential campaign with a national television ad he purchased that will begin airing Friday.

“The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a tragic event for Pakistan and for democracy in Pakistan. Her murderers must be brought to justice and Pakistan must continue the path back to democracy and the rule of law," Giuliani said in a statement Thursday morning -- the first released by any candidate regarding the bombing. "Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere — whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv or Rawalpindi — is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the Terrorists’ War on Us.”

Huckabee, who had been giving Giuliani and the rest of the GOP field a run for their money, also was quick to weigh in on Bhutto's assassination.

“I am deeply troubled by the news accounts this morning of Pakistani opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in a suicide attack. This is devastating news for the people of Pakistan, and my prayers go out to them as we follow developments regarding this dire situation," said Huckabee, who has been criticized for lacking foreign policy experience. "The terrible violence surrounding Pakistan’s upcoming election stands in stark contrast to the peaceful transition of power that we embrace in our country through our Constitution. On this sad day, we are reminded that while our democracy has flaws, it stands as a shining beacon of hope for nations and people around the world who seek peace and opportunity through self-government.”

Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza argues at his blog, The Fix, that Bhutto's assassination could help Giuliani recover the spotlight in the final weeks before Iowa and New Hampshire voters make their choices.

"Bhutto's assassination could well work to Giuliani's benefit because it may enable him to thrust himself back into the daily political conversation after steadily losing ground in the presidential campaign for weeks, while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has come on strong. With his decision to all but skip Iowa and play only at the margins in the New Hampshire primary, Giuliani has watched as the campaign in its final stages has largely passed him by," Cillizza writes.

"But, with the Bhutto's death and the broader implications of the fight against terrorism worldwide likely to dominate the coverage for the next day or two (at a minimum)," he says, "Giuliani immediately becomes relevant again."