Imagine it is Election Day 2004. As you walk toward your local polling place, you can't help but notice how different this day is from past first Tuesdays in November. A Humvee bearing the markings of your local National Guard unit is stationed outside, as are half a dozen guardsmen carrying assault rifles. Would-be voters glance at parked cars and passersby with palpable unease and suspicion. A string of suicide bombings, which began on the day of the first presidential debate, has transformed the country, both on the streets and in the campaign. Terrorism is the only issue that seems to matter.

In an article in this Sunday's Outlook section, "Bombs and Ballots," David Rothkopf says that the terrorist bombings in Istanbul over the past week, which have taken 50 lives, make it all the more easy to imagine this scenario here. And since terrorists often want to send messages during elections, he says it's worth asking: how would Americans, and how should Americans, respond if terrorists strike during the presidential campaign.

David Rothkopf discussed the article in an online chat at washingtonpost.com on November 21, 2003. Read the discussion.