The real argument (which SDB's post assumes, but does not explicitly state is better articulated by Dan Darling - that the terrorists have influenced the election.
But that's a false assumption. The Spanish people spoke en masse against Terrorism after the attacks - that was not the action of a frightened people willing to appease. It was a statement of defiance. The vote against Aznar, under whose leadership the terror attacks actually occurred, is a judgement on those merits.
If that government fails in its duty, then they should be held accountable. The Madrid bombings, like the Bali bombings, the Riyadh bombings, the attempts on Musharraf's life, the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the other numerous examples of Al-Qaeda's operational success since 9-11 have demonstrated that the US-led War on Terror has essentially done nothing to hinder the global terrorist threat.
Equating the Spanish vote with apeasement is grossly condescending to the Spanish. I believe people are rational actors, and the intent of the Spanish electorate was expressed clearly in the streets of Madrid.
Let's extend the logic for a moment - Al Qaeda influenced the election in either case. Voting for Aznar, by the SDB logic, meant that some voter was driven by fear of terror to select a candidate who they otherwise thought was worse for the country. How do you distinguish Al-Qaeda's motives? Who was Al-Qaeda really trying to support? Is, as Dan states, Al-Qaeda happy tonight? How can anyone claim to know, absent a telepathic connection? Wouldn't their ideological goals be served by using ANY outcome of the Spanish election as an excuse to pursue their goals?
Matthew Yglesias has perhaps the most cogent insight:
But of course logic has nothing to do with this. The right would like to set up the following argument: If there are no attacks between now and the election, then Bush has defended us from terror and deserves re-election; if there is an attack between now and the election, then voting for Kerry would be appeasement.
UPDATE: I respect Bill's opinion but as Liberal Oasis points out (quoting Jason Burke, author of Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror), the actual outcome was probably irrelevant to Al-Q if you take their long-range motivation into account:
It�s a myth that they set out to bring the American nation, or any western nation�to its knees through military attack [or] asymmetric warfare.
The aim of attacks is to radicalize and mobilize those people in the Islamic world who have so far ignored or rejected their message.
The attacks are propaganda. That�s why they�re so spectacular, that�s why they�re designed to be mediatized so heavily�
�[Their goals] will be achieved, in the view of the militants, if the world�s 1.2 billion Muslims accept their ideas and act thereon�
�The call is...not saying directly to the West, �Back off. Go away. We�re going to bomb you until you go away.�
The call is direct to Muslims, �Rise up and together we will be able to free ourselves, liberate ourselves, have a just society.�
That�s why it doesn�t matter to them who is in office in Spain, or any other Western country. In the end, it�s not about us, it�s about themselves.
The victory for Al-Qaeda was that they succeeded in carrying out their attack - and got loads of media coverage for it. The Spanish government was held accountable.