Donald Trump thinks terrorism talk gives him a boost. And on the face of it, it seems like a logical assumption that a renewed focus on security would perhaps seem to accrue to the tough-on-terrorism Trump campaign's benefit.
The reality isn't quite so simple. And in fact, it gets at the heart of a contradiction about Trump's appeal. That contradiction: While Trump talks tough on both defeating ISIS and stopping Islamist extremists from entering this country, he is considerably less trusted to deal with terrorism more broadly and — and this is the important one — to prevent domestic terrorism.
And in fact, he appears to inspire less confidence than other recent Republican presidential candidates.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll last month asked people which candidate they thought would "do more to make the country safer and more secure," and Americans chose Clinton by a 51 percent-to-42 percent margin.
This month, the same Post-ABC poll asked which candidate people trust more to deal with terrorism, and Clinton won by another 9-point margin, 50-41.
Similarly, a Fox News poll a couple of weeks back showed Clinton turning a 12-point deficit among registered voters on "terrorism and national security" from May into a 3-point advantage at the end of last month.
What's notable about these last two polls is that they showed Clinton building or maintaining an advantage on this issue even as the race tightened overall.
They also stand in contrast to the faith that people have in Trump to defeat ISIS on international turf. Polling has repeatedly shown that voters think his tough talk is more likely to lead to the defeat of the Islamic State.
But again, that's not the same as the picture back home. And a Quinnipiac poll in August showed it, too. It asked likely voters whether both Clinton and Trump "would keep the United States safe from terrorism, or not?" While 47 percent said that Trump would, almost the same number — 46 percent — said that Clinton would. (About half doubted both would.)
At the very least, it doesn't seem that Trump has the kind of advantage on this issue that Republicans — the more hawkish party — are accustomed to. Throughout past decade, both George W. Bush and John McCain regularly showed advantages when it came to dealing with terrorism. McCain led then-Sen. Barack Obama by as much as double digits. It was his best issue, according to Gallup.
Mitt Romney fared less well on this issue in 2012 , perhaps because he was running against the incumbent commander in chief when there were few domestic terrorism incidents.
Similarly, Trump is probably hurt on this issue by running against a politician with years of seasoning on foreign policy. But there is a kind of assumption that Trump's tough talk translates to strength in the minds of voters.
And while that's certainly true when it comes to fighting terrorism abroad, when it comes to preventing what we saw this weekend, if anything, it looks like Clinton has the edge.