Democrats have seized on the North Korean nuclear test as another stick with which to beat the administration of US President George W. Bush ahead of crucial mid-term elections less than a month away.
The nuclear test is being used as an argument in several closely fought Senate and Congressional races, with Democratic candidates arguing that it marks yet another foreign policy failure on the part of the administration.
"Five years ago President Bush said North Korea was part of the axis of evil. Now, North Korea has the bomb. The administration has done nothing in six years to keep this from happening. Instead President Bush handed over the lead to Russia and China, who did nothing," said Harold Ford, a Democratic Congressman in Tennessee standing for one of the state's two Senate seats in the Nov. 7 elections.
Sam Nunn, a former Democrat senator in Georgia who now runs the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a pressure group, told the New York Times the administration had "started at the wrong end of the axis of evil. We started with the least dangerous of the countries, Iraq, and we knew it at the time. Now we have to deal with that."
The Republicans are looking to the news to knock the party's troubles over the Mark Foley sex scandal off the front pages, and to play to voters' desires for strong leadership over national security.
But the Democrats see it as another potential windfall in their bid to take back both the House of Representatives and the Senate next month.
Even before the North Korean test, Republican campaign officials were telling the Washington Post that they expected to lose between seven and 30 house seats because of the Foley scandal and Iraq. Democrats need to win 15 seats to take back the House and six seats to control the Senate.