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What Happened to the October Surprise?

October 20th, 2012 - 3:15 am

Every now and then this past Spring and Summer, someone would bring up the specter of an “October surprise.” There we’d be in the last weeks of the election cycle and bang! out would come some startling revelation about Mitt Romney. Maybe he sacrificed that dog he carried on the roof of his car in some hitherto unknown religious ceremony. Maybe, as was revealed about George Bush early in November 2000, he was caught driving suspiciously slowly after a few too many beers. Who knows?

But as the weeks and months have worn on talk of an October surprise seems to have subsided.

Until today.

By one of those cosmic conjunctions the sage Carl Jung would doubtless make a lot of, I had not one but two encounters with the idea of an October surprise. The first was while chatting with a politically mature friend this morning. I pointed out that Obama’s campaign seemed to be visibly disintegrating by the day. He acknowledged the remarkable sea change in the fortunes of  the campaigns and even allowed that my long-standing prediction that Romney would win (and win big!) might after all turn out to be correct. “But,” he added, “if things look really bad for Obama going into the final week or so, they will think of something to spring.”

Spring what, exactly?

That of course remains to be seen, but it was was just an hour or two later that my friend sent me a link from The Daily Caller, based on a Tweet from the Drudge Report, speculating that Gloria Allred “will soon ‘make a move’ to affect the presidential election.” It was Ms. Allred, recall, who dug up news of Herman Cain’s amatory indiscretion, a revelation that pushed him out of the presidential race last Spring, just as it was Ms. Allred who discovered and publicized the news that Meg Whitman, then running for governor of California, had an illegal immigrant housekeeper in her past. Bye, bye, Meg!

Who knows what sordid stories Gloria Allred has been attempting to conjure? She remained coy. “I have no comment at this time,” she said. “I don’t discuss meetings with potential clients.” Well, well. How… discreet of her. Maybe she’s been re-reading Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet hoping to find a Romney connection to the grisly Mormons recounted in that early Sherlock Holmes caper.

Who knows what dirt Gloria Allred is running her hands through. I suspect that neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan provides a profitable hunting ground for scandal, but who knows? Maybe Paul Ryan was mean to a high school chum? Maybe Mitt Romney forgot to take out the trash? Whatever Gloria Allred comes up with, I’d wager it won’t be any more scandalous than Bardell v Pickwick. 

Which is not to say that Team Obama — with or without the collaboration of a surrogate like la Allred — won’t spring an October surprise of some sort. My friend thought, and I am inclined to agree, that if a surprise is sprung, it will not revolve around any foibles Messrs. Romney or Ryan may exhibit. Nor will it, at this late stage, be likely to have anything to do with the economy. No, the most likely scenario is a foreign adventure of some sort — and something more dramatic than another drone attack. Maybe the administration will suddenly discover some plausible culprits for the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his three colleagues in Libya. Maybe Obama will decide to bomb or invade Syria. Or maybe Iran will be the recipient of what the administration a year or so back was calling “kinetic activity.” Who knows?

If Romney’s momentum stalls — which I doubt, but if it does — nothing will happen. But if after Monday’s debate there is further disintegration of our Potemkin President and Ohio and Pennsylvania (to say nothing of New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, and Pennsylvania) edge further into the Romney camp, then watch out. The game is up for Obama.

It’s up, that is, short of a deus ex machina in the shape of some manufactured surprise, be it in late October or early November (when many October surprises seem to happen). When I ask myself what an effective surprise might be, I confess I am stumped. I would have said that things had gone too far, that Obama’s record, foreign as well as domestic, was such an unrelieved litany of failure that competent, dynamic, and ostentatiously decent men like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would just sail into the White House.

That, in fact, is what I’ve thought would happen for months. I am all the more confident about it now. I freely confess, however, that my experience of Alinskyite treachery is minimal. I continue to believe that Mitt Romney will win, but I think my friend is right that Team Obama will go to virtually any lengths to seize the election. I am trying to think low. I just hope that I am thinking low enough to account for the Chicago, you-bring-a-knife-to-the-fight-I-bring-a-gun tactics that Obama has bragged about pursuing.  He means to win, I have no doubt about that. As of this writing, however, I believe that the United States has not yet descended to full banana-republic. Elections are not that easy to corrupt, at least on the scale necessary to throw a presidential election.

Don’t get me wrong: I’d put nothing past the Obama administration. The question is, what can they put past us? Not enough to win, I think. Let’s see if I’m right.

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