In previous Presidential election years, there has often been at least one “October Surprise.” They are known by that term for two reasons. One is, they occur in the closing days leading up to a November general election when significant numbers of voters, finalize their voting choices. Secondly, the nature and time of an October Surprise is widely unexpected, either because it was deliberately planned and launched late, or it happened spontaneously without preplanning. Either way, an October Surprise is broadly covered by the media and can play a huge role in changing election outcomes especially in close elections.
The Republican party and the Democratic party are already experiencing widespread and significant media news coverage of October Surprise-like events.
Three attorneys to date have pled guilty and are cooperating with Georgia prosecutors on determining the level of involvement of Donald Trump in alleged illegal actions after the 2020 presidential election. This news will help Trump’s opponents for the GOP presidential nomination and the eventual Democratic presidential nominee to make a case that Trump is unfit to serve again.
Democratic Party strategist James Carville recently said publicly that President Biden’s reelection numbers are “not good”. Carville has also said on the record that when he tells Democratic leaders that Biden is in trouble, they don’t disagree with him, they just tell him to keep it to himself.” Nobody is saying, ‘James, you’re wrong,” he said. “They’re saying, ‘James, you can’t say that.’”
In deep blue New York City, Democratic Mayor Eric Adams recently said this about an influx of migrants into New York City — “I’m gonna tell you something, New Yorkers, never in my life have I had a problem that I didn’t see an ending to. I don’t see an ending to this. This issue will destroy New York City.” Adams also had this to say about Biden’s response (or perceived lack of) to requests for federal financial assistance for his city – “We’re getting no support on this national crisis.”
Commenting on a recent statewide survey conducted by the Seneca College Research Institute (SCRI) in deep blue New York state, SCRI pollster Steven Greenberg noted “While other issues in Washington and abroad have largely driven the news cycle over the last few weeks, the influx of migrants to New York remains top of mind for voters. Seldom do we see an issue where at least 79% of Democrats, Republicans, independents, men, women, upstaters, downstaters, Blacks, whites, Latinos, Catholics, Jews, and Protestants all agree – that the migrant influx is a serious problem.”
The SCRI survey also reports Biden’s worst-ever New York favorability and job approval ratings. Less than half (48%) of poll respondents had a favorable opinion of Biden, down from 50% in September. Less than half (46%) had a favorable opinion of his job performance, down from 47% last month.
This news will help Biden’s primary opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination and the eventual Republican presidential nominee make a case that Biden is not competent to continue serving as president.
Further complicating matters for Biden is the New Hampshire Democratic Party refusing to accept the Democratic National Committee revoking of New Hampshire’s long-term position as holder of the nation’s first presidential primary. The Biden campaign has decided they will not place Biden’s name on the New Hampshire Democratic primary ballot. Instead, they will mount a write-in campaign for a slate of Biden surrogates.
This strategy could go off the rails based on the rules of engagement in New Hampshire. The primary election there is semi-open. Unaffiliated voters (those registered to vote without any party affiliation) may vote in either party’s primary. Democratic and unaffiliated voters could cast enough write in votes for Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornell West, Minnesota Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips, Marianne Williamson and perhaps others that would deny Biden’s stand in slate of supporters a majority of the Democratic primary votes. If that occurs, the result could be Biden doing what incumbent Democratic President Lyndon Johnson did in 1968 when he failed to get a majority of votes in the New Hampshire Democratic primary and subsequently abandoned his bid for a second term.
Now more than ever presidential campaigns are a muti-year marathon rather than a several month sprint prior to a November election. Accordingly, multiple October Surprise-like events are highly likely to occur early and often between now and the November 2024 presidential election.
David Reel is a public affairs/public relations consultant who serves as a trusted advisor on strategy, advocacy, and media matters who lives in Easton.