I suppose Juan Williams is being provocative in wondering aloud if the president’s decision to intensify efforts to “degrade and destroy” IS as a politically motivated “October Surprise.” But though I think it highly unlikely Barack Obama greeted an opportunity to take a high-risk military action shortly before midterm elections (if only because prioritization of national security tends to bring out the Republican in many voters), it is a legitimate question: are his approval ratings suddenly at sea going into November?

[It’s] the biggest unknown of the fall campaign season. Will Americans react with political scientists refer to as the “Rally Around The Flag” effect for a national fight to take out a rising terrorist threat? This is exactly what has happened to every president engaged in a fight to protect the nation.

Well–it may be what has happened at some stage of the “fight to protect the nation,” but not necessarily in the run-up or in the denouement. It’s difficult to tell what sort of conflict we are entering right now, much less what “stage” we will be at on November 4.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.