Hillary Clinton tours Nelson-Mulligan Carpenters Training Center and meets voters at a campaign rally in St. Louis, Missouri on Saturday morning, March 12, 2016. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)


Of all of the distant fallout of the gruesome terrorist rampage in Paris in November, one of the less important was that it relegated the presidential campaign of Ben Carson to history-book-footnote status.

Carson had the misfortune of being a candidate who had just risen to national attention, tying Donald Trump in national polling averages shortly before the terrorists struck — meaning that he was due to become the target of more scrutiny from the media and his opponents anyway. (It was literally the day before the attacks that Trump referred to Carson as being “pathological,” like a “child molester.”)

The sudden spotlight combined with perceived weakness on foreign policy meant that Carson’s poll numbers plunged 10 points over the month after the attacks — to the benefit of Ted Cruz, who was just starting to surge, and to Trump himself.

Events like those last November in Paris and the bombings early Tuesday morning in Brussels seem as though they’d naturally reinforce Trump’s position. His policy on terrorism isn’t particularly nuanced, and it clearly plays well with an electorate that’s worried about the threat of a terror attack. In Gallup polling from the end of February, Trump was seen as the strongest GOP candidate on defense and terrorism, with nearly half of Republicans surveyed identifying him as the best at dealing with that issue. (The rest of the responses were about evenly split between Cruz and Marco Rubio.)

The Paris attacks didn’t do much to reshape the Democratic race, though. It had already settled into its current pattern of Hillary Clinton-leading/Bernie Sanders-closing in which it remains to this day. One might have thought the episode would solidify Clinton’s lead, given her wealth of experience in foreign policy. But it didn’t.

While the nominations for the two parties aren’t yet finalized, it seems likely that Trump and Clinton will face off in this November’s general election. And in the wake of the Brussels attacks, it’s worth asking how such a contest might evolve if the focus continues to be on combating terrorism.

The very simple and very unsatisfying answer is that we really have no idea. But based on the evidence at hand — and counter to its apparent effect in the GOP primary — it wouldn’t necessarily be to Trump’s benefit.

One reason that the Paris attacks didn’t reshape the Democratic race in Clinton’s favor is that terrorism and foreign policy are not and were not central to that contest in the way they are to the Republican side. When Gallup asked people to identify the most important issues this year, Republicans put terrorism at the top, tied with the economy. It was also one of the top four concerns of Democrats, but 82 percent of Democrats cited it, versus 92 percent of Republicans. In the Iowa caucuses, only 6 percent of Democrats listed terrorism as their most important issue for voting — compared to a quarter of Republicans.

Thanks to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, though, we know how people view the relative strengths of Clinton and Trump on this issue. In our most recent survey, conducted earlier this month, we asked respondents to identify the candidate they trusted more on a variety of issues, including terrorism and “an international crisis.”

Trump is more trusted on the economy. Clinton, who led Trump by nine points overall, is more trusted on terrorism, immigration and in a crisis. But what’s worth noting is the extent to which even Republicans view her positively on those fronts. On the economy, 82 percent of Republicans think Trump would do a better job. On an international crisis, though, only 60 percent think Trump would do better; 30 percent — again, this is Republicans — think Clinton would be stronger.

This is precisely the position Clinton hoped to be in during the 2016 cycle. For years, Democrats have been seen by voters as softer on foreign policy issues; Clinton’s obvious aim has long been to be seen as having a firm hand. Her speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday was viewed by many as being further to the right on foreign policy than Trump. This isn’t advantageous with Democratic primary voters — one could argue that it cost her the nomination in 2008 — but it positions her well against a candidate like Trump.

Again, this is early analysis of an early poll for a contest that might not happen. On the issue of national security, though, a Trump-Clinton match-up may favor the Democrat in ways that any other general election fights wouldn’t.