Al Qaeda wants to influence the US presidential elections, acording to a news story. Former CIA Director James Woolsey said al Qaeda does 3 things related to elections:
1. Attack before an election (Spain 2004)
2. Attack when a new leader takes command (Pakistan this week)
3. Send messages to populations in elections
A McCain official has said any al Qaeda attack will benefit McCain in the polls, and I believe there is no dispute about that. I also take it for granted that al Qaeda would prefer Barack Obama to win the election, primarily because he is so much weaker on national security than McCain, and secondarily because those in the Muslim world who are anti-American feel a kinship with the Democratic Party.
But any attack before the November election will benefit McCain. Any attack after the election will cause the US government to shift more attention and resources to national security.
A message to the American public that might change their votes? Al Qaeda is in a position whereby the only way to support Obama (other than doing nothing and hoping the votes are cast their way) is to use reverse psychology. Osama bin Laden will need to appear in a new video endorsing McCain for president. That would win Obama some votes. And that's not going to happen.