October Surprises 

It has long been a tradition in American presidential races for there to be an "October surprise" — a sometimes game-changing development that impacts the election in the waning days of the campaign.

In the 1972 contest between Republican incumbent Richard Nixon

and Democratic challenger George McGovern, for example, Nixon's secretary of state Henry Kissinger announced that "peace was at hand" in Vietnam. It wasn't, of course, but even if it had been, it's unlikely McGovern would have done much better than he did in the general election.

In 1992, when George H.W. Bush was trying to hold off challenger Bill Clinton, four days before the election, independent counsel Lawrence Walsh announced that Bush's defense secretary Caspar Weinberger was being indicted in the investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal. Republicans accused Walsh of timing the indictment to influence voters against Bush. Did it work? Hard to say. But it certainly didn't hurt Clinton's chances.

One of the oddest October surprises occurred in the George W. Bush-Al Gore contest of 2000 (at least, it was odd considering the source). Less than a week before Election Day, Fox News reporter Carl Cameron uncovered and reported on Bush's decades-old drunk-driving arrest in Maine. Bush won, anyway, and promptly began crafting the eight years of non-peace and non-prosperity we Americans are enjoying today.

There are other examples, of course, including the last-minute video plea from Osama bin Laden in 2004 to vote for John Kerry. (With friends like that, Kerry didn't need enemies.)

As October 2008 approaches its mid-point, we can only imagine what lies in store in the next three weeks. The McCain-Palin ticket languishes in the polls, both nationally and in several critical swing states. The GOP ticket has already announced — and followed through on that announcement — that it was going to "go negative." This, despite McCain's pledge not to do so.

In recent days, McCain has called Obama a liar and "dishonorable" and asked rhetorically, "Who is Barack Obama," hinting at dark secrets in his opponent's past. Palin accuses Obama in her stump speeches of "palling around with terrorists." These attacks are beneath contempt and are the hallmarks of a campaign that is out of ideas. The Obama team has responded with tough personal attacks of its own on McCain and Palin, though the name-calling hasn't been as reckless.

As the country struggles with a confidence-shaking economic meltdown, unfinished and bloody business in Iraq and Afghanistan, and soaring energy costs, we can only hope that the candidates will move past this ugliness and get back to the real issues soon.

Now that would be a real October surprise.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment



We Saw You

Blues on the Bluff, Luna, Frank Murtaugh

News Blog

High Ozone Levels Forecasted for Wednesday

Fly On The Wall Blog

Dammit Gannett: "Where's Elvis" Edition

News Blog

Alligator Decoys to Curb Geese at Botanic Garden

Fly On The Wall Blog

When Boy Scouts are Political Props

News Blog

EPA Could Make University-Area Lot a Superfund Site

From My Seat

2017 Memphis Redbirds: Wisdom Prevails

Music Blog

Dead tribute raises awareness & donations for MIFA

Politics Beat Blog

City Voters in 2019 Will Rank Candidates 1-2-3 — and Avoid Runoffs


More by Flyer Staff

Readers also liked…

  • Dear Chuck Brady ...

    • Jul 7, 2016
  • Arkansas Goes to Pot

    • May 25, 2017
  • Who to Hate?

    Well, now we know the culprit behind the mass murders in Orlando, Sunday morning. It was the Obama administration's "political correctness." At least that was what was responsible, according to an NRA spokesperson, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz, to name just three GOP leaders who propagated this hogwash ...
    • Jun 16, 2016
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation