The Ultimate October Surprise

Cross-posted at Motley Moose.

After a few weeks of hand-wringing by Democrats about why the race is so tight, Obama seems have broken into a clear national lead.

From Rasmussen:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday--including the first day of post-debate polling--is unchanged. Barack Obama once again attracts 50% of the vote while John McCain earns 44%. This six-point advantage matches Obama's biggest lead yet and marks the first time he has held such a lead for two-days running (see trends).

From Gallup:


And this is how sees the race:


The race clearly favors Senator Obama and the Democrats who spent the last few weeks wondering why Obama was "losing" will now fret about how the Republicans will steal the election.

There has been a lot of speculation in the media and the blogosphere about a possible October surprise that would benefit Senator McCain.  There is the much derided--and likely non-existent--"whitey" tape supposedly in the hands of Republican operatives.  There are concerns about President Bush launching new military strikes in Pakistan or Iran to help Republicans.  Earlier this month, The Telegraph (UK) reported that the Dutch had withdrawn a spy from Iran because the Dutch government believe that a US attack on Iran was coming.  The LA Times recently reported that the Bush administration had launched a big push to capture Osama bin Laden, perhaps hoping to nab the Al Qaeda leader in time to influence the November elections.  There has even been speculation that Al Qaeda may launch an attack in order to influence voters.

While I highly doubt that the "whitey tape" so many Republicans and anti-Obama Democrats are hoping for will appear, I think that Senator McCain might have something up his sleeve.  He has shown that he is willing to make unexpected, unconventional decisions to shake up the race.  The "Celebrity" ad (this one is actually my favorite) and his selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate are examples.

Unlike many others who believe the October Surprise will be a foreign policy event of some kind, I believe that Senator McCain is most likely to shake up the race by making an announcing that he will only serve one term.  With his campaign seriously on the ropes, I can envision McCain making an announcement like this:

My friends, these are perilous times for our country.  Our economy teeters on the edge of disaster.  We are fighting two wars.  A culture of greed and corruption have taken control of Washington DC.  We can't afford leaders who do spend their time in office planning for the next election.  At this moment, our nation needs a president who can see further than four years into the future.  The best way to do this is to elect a president who will be unencumbered by electoral politics, a president who can make tough decisions without worrying about upsetting interest groups or donors.  As such, I have decided that if I am elected, I will serve only one term.

If McCain comes to the conclusion that he's not going to win without one more big move, he might attempt something like this.  The only problem is that is that the announcement would be coming from a position of weakness rather than a position of strength.  It could be seen as a cheap trick or an act of desperation.  On the other hand, voters might appreciate having a president who doesn't have answer phone calls from important interest groups or lobbyists.  And its a pledge that the voters could hold McCain to.  If he tried to break the pledge, he would go down in defeat in 2012.

What do you think?  Am I nuts?  Would he actually do something like this?  Would it work?  How could the Obama campaign counter a move like this?

More importantly, would it change your vote?

Tags: Barack Obama, Election, John McCain, Presidency (all tags)




Have there been enough twists in this crazy election?

by psychodrew 2008-09-28 02:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Tips/flames

Don't you think that the nomination of Governor Palin as VP keeps the 'one-term' ploy in the can?  Surely she is enough of a liability without half the planet terrified of her running as the anointed incumbent in 2012.  And mainstream Republicans wouldn't welcome a bitter factional primary, and there would be blood, after just one term of government.

But the biggest question is what makes anyone think he's going to win at this point, anyhow?  Aren't most intelligentsia Republicans washing their collective hands of this race and regrouping for a less 'maverick' assault next time around?

by Shaun Appleby 2008-09-28 03:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Tips/flames

She would have to be elected in 2012.  I remember when Hillary Clinton was the inevitable candidate.

by psychodrew 2008-09-28 03:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Tips/flames

Yeah, but that's my point, with her in the mix the Republicans would be fighting like rats in a basket and her popularity with the 'values conservatives,' and nobody else, would seem to be a recipe for a big, messy split.  They're trying to re-brand their party, not take it out behind the barn and shoot it.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-09-28 03:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Tips/flames

By coincidence, my grandma had a recipe for "Rats-in-a-basket" that specifically called for grandpa to take the rats behind the barn and shoot them. I can verify your suspicion that it was messy, not popular, and caused people to split the scene as rapidly as possible.


by itsthemedia 2008-09-28 04:53PM | 0 recs
Grandma's Rats-in-a-basket recipe.

Mmmmmm...  You had me at Rats.

by Dumbo 2008-09-28 05:34PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

Rumors are now circulating that The McCain campaign has footage of Obama burning a flag at Occidental College.

by Bobby Obama 2008-09-28 02:19PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise


by vcalzone 2008-09-28 02:32PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

If it's anywhere, it's not anywhere that Google knows of.

by vcalzone 2008-09-28 02:38PM | 0 recs
I think he's being sarcastic vcal

As long there isn't any video of Obama in the pews on any of the days when Wright spewed anti-American rhetoric, he should have enough of a lead to withstand any big Wright push from McCain.

Which Senate dems you think will vote against the bailout by the way?

by Blazers Edge 2008-09-28 02:41PM | 0 recs
Re: I think he's being sarcastic vcal

Probably the true populist elements. Tester, Webb, etc. What do you figure? I hear McCain might not show up, in which case he needs to be beaten with a great big stick for daring to yell at Obama about taking a side.

I found the thing about Obama flag-burning in a deleted Google-cached comment at a subforum of Craigslist. Only they said pictures, not video. Said it was him and Michelle, though, which pretty much proves this is a fallacy, since Obama and Michelle didn't even meet in grad school.

by vcalzone 2008-09-28 02:50PM | 0 recs

Tester, Webb, Brown, and ....Clinton?  She came close to pinning herself down last week on the networks but she's not running for anything, so she can flip with impunity.  She could justify it by arguing the bill didn't go far enough in containing her housing proposals.  She was hitting the populist tones pretty hard in her three stops for Obama in Michigan yesterday, so something may be up.

If she votes no, that's probably a sign she doesn't feel she has any chance at Reid's spot.  Any Senator who votes no will not be viewed in much favor by the current establishment.

by Blazers Edge 2008-09-28 02:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Yeah

If I were Clinton, I'd vote against it. It might hit her with Wall Street bankers, but that can always be fixed. She's like a Nader voter in California. She can afford to vote on principle.

by vcalzone 2008-09-28 04:09PM | 0 recs
I hope she votes against it

but the press would probably interpret and portray her move as one designed to undercut Obama.  The media still has a soft spot for more Hillary/Obama drama.

She'd be sacrificing any chance at a majority leader position (which could happen if a President Obama decided to throw Durbin overboard); voting no would mean she's probably looking at going down the route of the female Kennedy or perhaps becoming our McCain in terms of the McCain v. Bush battle with her pushing against Obama's proposals that are too conservative and the conservative dems such as McCaskill, Bayh, and Webb.

by Blazers Edge 2008-09-28 04:37PM | 0 recs
I don't think so...anybody living in NY, CT, NJ

knows why they cannot vote against's like voting against Katrina rescue effort as a Senator from Louisiana..

by louisprandtl 2008-09-28 04:39PM | 0 recs
If McCain doens't show up

Obama probably won't either; both guys have been pretty bad in this respect though McCain is a much worse offender than Obama.

The bailout will probably not be a political issue for the rest of the campaign though some careers will be ruined by this episode.

by Blazers Edge 2008-09-28 03:00PM | 0 recs
Re: If McCain doens't show up

Like whose? Dare we wish Boehner? Or are you thinking Dodd and Frank?

by vcalzone 2008-09-28 04:16PM | 0 recs
Yeah Boehner is done

especially if Obama wins the election; Eric Cantor will ride in and take his position.

Reid could have been in jeopardy if he didn't so successfully play McCain so effectively politically.  McCain's staff was so flumoxxed that they were unable to point out the contradiction in our argument regarding McCain's role in the bailout: how could he be responsible for the bailout deal coming apart and yet at the same time, barely have said a word at the White House meeting?  I'm just laughing that McCain got schooled by Reid and Pelosi and he was holding the bag for why there was no bailout deal on Thursday.

by Blazers Edge 2008-09-28 05:05PM | 0 recs
Re: If McCain doens't show up

Funny you say that Obama might not either, I went to refresh my Poolitico tab and thene went from "McCain May Skip Bailout Vote" to "McCain, Obama May Skip Bailout Vote". Politics is a funny, funny game.

by vcalzone 2008-09-28 04:18PM | 0 recs
They both are skipping

Obama's staff pretty much said as much in that article (e.g. he'll show up if his vote is "needed).  I will say that Obama would look terrible if McCain shows up to vote and Obama doesn't; McCain could find some traction with that and stop the bleeding if Obama went that route.

However, Obama not showing up probably gives McCain the luxury of not voting as well; the same principle applies the other way.

by Blazers Edge 2008-09-28 04:28PM | 0 recs
Re: They both are skipping

We won't know until the noses are counted on the day of the vote. O has said that if the matter is in the bag and he approve of it, he might not come, but if his vote is needed, he would. It would be like McCain if he discovers Repubs hate it or are split to skip the vote, so he won't have to defend what he did if the turnaround is not immediate. You can't be the hero of the vote if it doesn't work, and he at least has no idea whether it will or not.

by Christy1947 2008-09-28 05:04PM | 0 recs
Re: They both are skipping

It reminds me of an episode during the primaries between Obama and Clinton.  I think the vote was regarding Iraq War funding: they both had their friends spy on the other to see which way they voted so before they cast THEIR vote.  Finally at five minutes before the deadline Obama broke down and rushed in to vote "yes", Clinton quickly followed suit.

by Jess81 2008-09-28 08:24PM | 0 recs
I don't buy it.

Sounds like white tape 2.0 to me.

by psychodrew 2008-09-28 03:23PM | 0 recs
Flag burning tape

Yes, it's been verified...

But, there was a titanic struggle about WHO would get to releasee, it, Texas Darlin'k or Larry the Johnson, and it accidently got erased.

Funny thing is, the same thing happened to the Whitey Tape.

by WashStateBlue 2008-09-28 04:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Flag burning tape

Wow! I didn't know that Rosemary Woods was working in Larry Johnson's office.

by itsthemedia 2008-09-28 05:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Flag burning tape

I heard that Larry lost the whitey tape when he accidentally left it in a camcorder for "Obama Mask" roleplay night.

by vcalzone 2008-09-28 05:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Flag burning tape

Don't worry, forensic specialist "techdude" is on the case.

Due to magnetic deterioration, it may, however, end up looking like people dressed up in blackface.  That's just because of some super advanced technical issues that you don't even KNOW about!

by Jess81 2008-09-28 08:33PM | 0 recs

I hear rumors that there are boogleg tapes of McCain blowing Vietnamese prison guards for cigarettes.  I don't know how truthful they are, though.

by Dumbo 2008-09-28 05:35PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

I can't find anything about this rumor anywhere on the net. Perhaps you made it up?

by Angry White Democrat 2008-09-28 05:41PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

...Wasn't that the plotline of The American President? (But it was the president's girlfriend and not the president himself.)

by BrighidG 2008-09-28 08:28PM | 0 recs
One-term pledge?

He should have taken it during the summer to get the maximum impact from the decision; McCain has damaged his brand to a great degree with his suspension stunt that I suspect most Americans would view this move as more smoke and mirrors whereas they would have applauded him if he had done it earlier.

This race seems close to over in my opinion if you go by body language; McCain looked broken on This Week with George S.  I suppose Palin "beating" Biden in the debate would score McCain a temporary bump but he likely cannot escape the mess that is the economy because that won't go away.  

by Blazers Edge 2008-09-28 02:23PM | 0 recs
Re: One-term pledge?

He got the worst of both worlds on the bailout, playing defence for his role, unenthusiastically, which portrays him as a grandstanding spoiler but ultimately saddled him with the unpopular outcome of supporting the legislation, all in living colour.  He should have seen that coming.  Obama played a much saner game and bowed to the inevitable with grace.  And kept his head down, too, I might add.  McCain was like a three year-old having a tantrum over apple sauce which he eventually had to eat anyhow.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-09-28 03:30PM | 0 recs
McCain voting against the bailout plan

could be such a surprise, though he has left himself with the slimmest of wiggle room in his statements.  There's no way that Obama lets McCain vote after he votes on this plan.

by Blazers Edge 2008-09-28 02:28PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain voting against the bailout plan

Roll-call vote. There must be a roll-call vote. I would think they'd be planning on that anyway for something so important. Anyone voting Nay would want the satisfaction of doing so, too.

by vcalzone 2008-09-28 02:52PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain voting against the bailout plan

McCain's name would be called before Obama's, although Biden's would be before them both.

by TheUnknown285 2008-09-28 04:23PM | 0 recs
Biden won't show up

if Obama doesn't show up, which is unlikely if McCain also doens't show up.  I don't expect any of the three Senators to be a profile in courage in this matter.

I bet the pubs are wishing they nominated Huckabee right now because he wouldn't have the responsibility of casting any vote and could just rail against the bailout.

by Blazers Edge 2008-09-28 04:50PM | 0 recs
"If we had only nominated Huckabee!!"

by Dumbo 2008-09-28 05:42PM | 0 recs
Correction: Biden will show up

and vote according to CNN; I wonder if he'll flip if Obama tells him not to go.  There's no need for him to go vote if McCain isn't won't.

by Blazers Edge 2008-09-28 05:45PM | 0 recs
I think McCain will vote against it.

He will have some "good reason," of course, that he will reveal after his nay vote.  From an election POV, it's the only move that makes sense for him.  

by Dumbo 2008-09-28 05:46PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

A one-term pledge implicitly concedes that there is danger in a McCain presidency and that the candidate himself feels compelled to assuage the public over it.

by PantherDem 2008-09-28 02:29PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

It would not only be a flip on a direct answer to a direct question asked a few months ago, it would be tacitly saying, "I know you don't like me, and I swear I'll be gone soon!" He won't. The GOP would probably just as soon let Obama have it at this point anyway.

by vcalzone 2008-09-28 02:54PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

Plouffe and Axelrod have been so dead on so far... they predicted that one candidate (implying Obama) would start pulling away in October, but it would be a close race until then...

As for campaign surprises, I wouldn't be surprised by anything at this point, they've pulled every stunt int he book.... although the one term pledge would have only helped if Palin was qualified to be VP.

by LordMike 2008-09-28 03:19PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

I agree with her a 'heart-throb' away from the presidency a one-term pledge seems more like a suicide pact.  She gives me moose-bumps.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-09-28 03:31PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

My unhappy vote is for one of two things::

1. An attack on Iran, since I have always assumed that Bush and Cheney want to make sure they get that in before they give up power, one last ultimate war toy for those who see all war that way.

2. A report of capture  or killing of Bin Laden. There have been reports on other websites of missions sent very recently to the Pakistan border area where there have been fatalities. The problem with that is that O has been clear that he would do whatever had to be done, whether Pakistan liked it or not, to get Bin Laden captured or killed, and this would not redound to McC's benefit since O has so long called for it, and Bush has done some of the things O has called for in that area already. A lesser likelihood for this one, on the theory that if they could have caught him, or killed him, they'd make sure McC was in the press helicopter.

by Christy1947 2008-09-28 05:08PM | 0 recs
I think the Bin Laden thing is likely.

It's easy to pull off. -- Not the actual capture or killing of bin Laden, but a REPORT that they MAY HAVE killed Bin Laden.  Some breathless leak from the Pentagon that forensic experts are being rushed to tribal areas of northern Pakistan to identify the possible remains of Bin Laden from some recent attack.  They could play that out suspensefully for a week without ever resolving it.  Republican lawmakers could announce, "We don't know yet if these reports are true, but we hope so.  This may be the final justice for what they did to us bla bla bla."

by Dumbo 2008-09-28 05:52PM | 0 recs
I wouldn't put it past McCain to try it if he

thought he could get some traction from it but at this point it would be a mistake.  There are only so many 'bold' moves he can make before people see him as erratic and his actions as political stunts.  He's teetering on the edge of that already.  If he can bring himself to do it, he needs to try to run a steady campaign from now on, stick to the issues and his position(s) on them.  Any more drama from McCain will not help him.

I expect we will see the return of Rev. Wright for one thing but we can now say  "Hey, we've got a wacky preacher, they've got a wacky preacher. The score is tied in that respect."  

I don't see Bush doing anything too crazy as he really doesn't want his legacy to be that he was the worst president in U.S. history.  Right now at least he is tied for worst.

by GFORD 2008-09-28 05:11PM | 0 recs
Re: I wouldn't put it past McCain to try it if he

I think if Wright comes up, the card to play is to allow a few of its parishioners to tell people that they need to leave churches alone. It's easy to demonize Wright, harder to demonize the hardworking couple with three or four jobs between them trying to raise two kids.

by vcalzone 2008-09-28 06:31PM | 0 recs

An interesting side note is I and a lot of us on the left don't see anything wrong with Rev. Wright.  I suspect that lots of McCain's base wouldn't see anything wrong with her Kenyan witch banisher preacher.  It's all in your point of view.

by GFORD 2008-09-28 08:41PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

I would prefer to see this trend stabilize for a week or two before feeling comfortable about this lead. Look at your Gallup Poll trend graph - it could be that Obama has turned a corner, but it could also be that we are at a point in the rhythm of those two interlocking sinusoids where Obama trends upward. If in a couple of weeks, we see that Obama's lead has stabilized or increased, we can worry about October surprises.

by itsthemedia 2008-09-28 05:14PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

Even if it might help him win the election (I don't think it would and think it would hurt him - meaning that he intends to groom Palin to take over in four years), were he to win, with a solid Democratic congress, it would make him a lame duck on day one.

by Khun David 2008-09-28 05:20PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

Control of the WH is very relevant, especially for the Republicans. Remember, they are the party that wants the government to do as little as possible, so that wealthy people and big corporations can do whatever they want. Even if you don't account for the tendency of the Dems to cave under pressure, look what holding that one office gives them:

1) Veto power to stop any new programs or legislation that adversely affects the wealthy or big corporations.

2) Regulatory power to undermine any labor, environmental, or health standards that manage to get past (1).

3) Perhaps most important, control over the administration of justice, to quietly quash any attempts to investigate and expose the crimes of present or past Republican administrations, and maximize the use of same against Democrats. See Gonzalez, Alberto.

by itsthemedia 2008-09-28 06:14PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

One could argue that the Meltdown was a September surprise!

by yitbos96bb 2008-09-28 05:25PM | 0 recs
And this announcement from McCain

would help him how?  

I can't see any upside to it, even imaginary upside.  

Is there supposed to be some voter out there who goes, "Oh, eight years of McCain would have been too much, but four years, oh, that's just perfect!"  

If he does do anything this bone-headed, we have to be ready to ask the question, "Is there something about McCain's health that he can't tell us aloud?  Maybe this is a signal..."

by Dumbo 2008-09-28 05:55PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

McCain gets a heart attack. Palin goes to the top of the ticket, but admits that she's not ready to be president and resigns from the ticket. Congress ammends the Constitution so that Armold Schwarzeneggar can run for president. Schwarzeneggar chooses Lara Flynn Boyle as his running mate. Heather Locklear, Kelsey Grammer and Clint Eastwood join the Schwarzeneggar campaign team.

by Zzyzzy 2008-09-28 06:28PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

Schwarzeneggar fails the 'Bruce Springsteen' qualification for the presidency, same as Kissinger.  Thank God.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-09-28 06:58PM | 0 recs
He might as well

If McCain is elected, he will only serve one term.  President McCain would be a disaster similar to Herbert Hoover, and will not be running for reelection anyway. My guess is that his approval ratings in 2012 would be less than Bush now.

by ClintoniteNoLonger4McCain 2008-09-28 07:09PM | 0 recs
And it wouldn't change my vote
I would vote for a dead duck over a ticket with Sarah Palin on it.  
Bush at his worst is better than Palin at her best.
by ClintoniteNoLonger4McCain 2008-09-28 07:10PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

i dont see how this helps mccains candidacy.. making a one term pledge from a position of weakness would really hurt his campaign!

also, as has been pointed out, with palin in the mix i think a one term pledge could lead to people worrying about palin taking over..

a one term pledge would make sense from a position of strength or at least equilibrium.. and with a serious and well liked VP...

mccain really blew it by not picking kay bailey hutchinson

by obama4presidente 2008-09-28 07:17PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

If announcing the presidential campaign of Sarah Palin 2012 is the ace up their sleeve, I'm not worried.

Right now, a good number of republicans are in deep denial about the prospect of Sarah Palin as leader of the free world. Were McCain to announce that, by voting for him, they'd get to vote for her in 4 years... I can't see how that's going to convince many. Granted, conservative pundits are already floating the idea that "she just needs four years in Washington to get ready," but I think the idea is going to rightly scare away a lot of swing voters who know the stakes are high right now, that McCain might not make it even that long, and that even four years of cramming won't make Palin presidential caliber.

by BobzCat 2008-09-28 07:18PM | 0 recs
The only October surprise that knocks out Obama...

...would be incriminating photos of him having carnal relations with a farm animal.

Or hugging George W. Bush. Either one. (Wait, don't we already have a candidate doing that?)

Tying those two together: if George W. Bush was a farm animal, would he be:

a) a pig
b) a horse's ass
c) a rat

by PhilFR 2008-09-28 07:32PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ultimate October Surprise

What's the Republican record on actually adhering to term-limits pledges after getting elected?  Something like 2 for 734?

by Steve M 2008-09-28 09:54PM | 0 recs


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