October is the most nerve-wracking month in every national election year, whether through planned action by the opposition or just plain old karma. As history repeats time and again, whether it’s an email problem, security breach, first kids gone awry, locker room talk on tape, or infidelity, an October surprise can upend a campaign that once seemed destined to succeed. And no one seems able to suppress the news that creates epic losses at crunch time. But what could possibly be left unsaid, whose fingers left unpointed, or events unreported this year? It’s almost certain Democrats and Republicans have some aces up their sleeve. As Gomer Pyle always said, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”
Abolishing Roe v. Wade has been discussed ad nauseam. Illegal immigration is a festering sore spot. But with nothing new to trumpet to the masses, it’s just the same old message. Maybe it’s the “economy, stupid,” as Democratic strategist James Carville coined for then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton. But a little less than a month out, it doesn’t appear that Joe Biden’s national financial disaster will make a drastic about-face.
Will the tensions between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin escalate to an unthinkable outcome? The United States spent a tense period in 1961 after the CIA’s failed invasion into Cuba to overthrow the new dictator, Fidel Castro. Just over a year later, the Cuban Missile Crisis presented a tightrope that no one wants to walk again, as Soviet nuclear weapons were too close to launching. The only person happy about that October surprise was revolutionary Che Guevara, who had earlier spoken to President John Kennedy’s speechwriter, Richard Goodwin. According to Goodwin, the revolutionary “went on to say that he wanted to thank us very much for the invasion — that it had been a great political victory for them — enabled them to consolidate — and transformed them from an aggrieved little country to an equal.” With Biden’s recent talk of nuclear “Armageddon,” could the US-Russia rivalry once again ratchet up to worrying heights?
After the botched exit from Afghanistan in 2021, America’s standing on the world stage has been greatly diminished. Even the president’s own Army reported that reading the evaluation on the Afghan withdrawal was “unequivocal … It was a White House horror show.”
Roe v. Wade and the Pitted Peach State
Abortion is an issue that most politicians either wallow in or avoid. Herschel Walker, a pro-life candidate for the US Senate from Georgia, recently felt the slap of an October surprise. As Liberty Nation’s Senior Political Analyst Tim Donner explained:
“The latest troubling report is that Walker, a vocal pro-lifer, once bankrolled an abortion for an alleged girlfriend. When Walker denied the anonymous claim, it triggered his own son, an outgoing gay conservative, to unleash a blistering attack on social media alleging that his father was reckless, irresponsible and adulterous during his child-rearing years.”
Having your child accuse you of being a cheating cad is just icing on the cake for Walker’s opponent, Reverend Raphael Warnock, to enjoy. One Democratic strategist, Tim Hogan, summed up the landscape Republicans now face: “We’re barely a week into October, and Herschel Walker’s campaign has redefined five-alarm fire, Dr. [Mehmet] Oz is denying he experimented on puppies, and the Minnesota gubernatorial challenger Scott Jensen is talking about schoolkids peeing in litter boxes.”
Since this is the midterms, each October surprise may not be familiar to everyone across America. These are mainly local issues made dominant by the activist media. Still, they can sway the electorate in other regions of the country. Walker’s emerging problem riding on Roe v. Wade coattails, for example, could trigger backlash outside Georgia’s border. Likewise, if Biden’s foreign policy disasters are attached to congressional candidates, that could throw kerosene on the smoldering dumpster fire. But then again, a drop in gasoline prices by releasing oil from the strategic reserve and very publicly pressuring the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates might help the Democrats at the last minute.
They Call It the October Surprise for Good Reason
There have been bigger, badder, more electorate-perception-altering political disruptions and revelations. In fact, 2022 might turn out to be a whimper after the flash bangs of prior election years. For example, in mid-October 1840, shortly before the presidential election, federal prosecutors announced they were off to charge the Whig Party with the “most stupendous and atrocious fraud” for paying voters in Pennsylvania to cross state lines and vote in New York. And in 1844, an abolitionist newspaper charged James Polk with branding his slaves.
In 1888, the Republicans published a letter from an English diplomat, Lionel Sackville-West, that said the British Empire liked Grover Cleveland the best. The Revolutionary War was still smarting for Americans, and it was a dirty trick of sorts. Every election has a list that produces winners and sore losers. Who can forget Russia, Russia, Russia and the palpable angst of the Democrats for not electing the first woman president?
Although the term October surprise is of more recent lineage, the tactic is a Hail Mary pass that has been exploited in political gamesmanship since Caesar cried, “Et tu, Brute?” Will 2022 release the hellhound of all political gotcha moments? Well, we have only a few weeks left to wait for the bogeyman.
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