According to former Homeland Security Official (and former Republican senator), Tom Ridge, just before the election in 2004, top Bush administration officials pushed him to raise the threat level from Orange to Red (the highest level). Knowing that the Republicans were seen as tougher on security, this move was hoped to raise votes for the Republican president. Ultimately, the change in threat-level was never implemented.
Tom Ridge, in his new book:
“A vigorous, some might say dramatic, discussion ensued [after the Bin Ladin tape]. Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level, and was supported by Rumsfeld. There was absolutely no support for that position within our [Homeland Security] Department. None. I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics?’ Post-election analysis demonstrated a significant increase in the president’s approval rating in the days after raising of the threat level.
It … seemed possible to me and to others around the table that something could be afoot other than simple concern about the country’s safety. I believe our strong interventions had pulled the ‘go up’ advocates back from the brink. But I consider that episode to be not only a dramatic moment in Washington’s recent history, but another illustration of the intersection of politics, fear, credibility, and security. After that episode, I knew I had to follow through on my plans to leave the federal government.”