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Hurricane Sandy and six other ‘October surprises’
As Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, many commentators have called it an "October surprise" from Mother Nature. The term refers to a last-minute announcement that could affect a presidential campaign. Here are six other October surprises.
Storified by Digital First Media · Mon, Oct 29 2012 11:25:55
As Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, many commentators have called it an “October surprise” from Mother Nature. The term refers to a last-minute announcement that could affect a presidential campaign.
Here are six other October surprises which did — and didn’t — happen.
1972: Peace in Vietnam
Henry A. Kissinger shown in 1973 file photo. (AP Photo)
On Oct. 26, 1972, 12 days before the Nov. 7 election, President Nixon’s national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, announced at a White House press conference that negotiations with the Vietnamese were going well. “We believe that peace is at hand,” he said. Fighting ended in Vietnam the following year, but troops remained until 1975.
1980: Iranian hostages
Freed hostage Bruce Laingen makes V signs as he steps from the first of four planes carrying the freed hostages to their official welcome in Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 1981. (AP Photo)
After Islamic militants stormed the American Embassy in Iran, a group of 52 Americans were held hostage for more than a year. Republican nominee Ronald Reagan worried that the Iranians would release the hostages before the election, buoying President Carter, but in the end they were released just minutes after Reagan’s inauguration on Jan. 20. Some have theorized that Reagan negotiated with the Iranians, but a 1992 Senate report found no evidence.
New York Times: “Meanwhile, Mr. Reagan’s running mate, George Bush, was already discounting the political effect in the event that hostages are released before Nov. 4. ”Frankly, we’ve been concerned about it,” Mr. Bush told several hundred students Monday in Bridgeport, Conn. Later, after an address before the Chamber of Commerce in Waterbury, Conn., he said that if Mr. Carter managed such an ‘October surprise’ most voters would probably wonder why he had not been able to do it sooner.”
1992: Iran-Contra evidence
Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger in Washington, D.C. in February 1981. (AP Photo/Bob Daugherty)
On Oct. 30, 1992, four days before the Nov. 3 election, Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh released an old note from former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger saying that George H.W. Bush supported at a key meeting the arms-for-hostages trade with Iran, undercutting Bush’s argument that he was “out of the loop” on the Iran-Contra affair.
Boston Globe: “The precedent for an “October surprise” was set by Iran-contra special counsel Lawrence E. Walsh in 1992 when, four days before the presidential election, he filed an indictment of former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger that challenged President Bush’s longstanding version of the scandal.”
2000: Drunk-driving charges
(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
On Nov. 3, 2000, just days before the Nov. 7 election, a prominent Maine defense attorney told a reporter that Republican nominee George W. Bush had been arrested in that state in 1976 for drunk driving. Bush confirmed the arrest in a press conference, saying he had “made some mistakes” as a young man.
CBS Evening News: “Call it the October surprise a few days late. George W. Bush, riding a slim lead in most polls, was forced to admit something he hoped would never come out.”
2004: Bin Laden video
(AP Photo/Al Jazeera via APTN)
On Oct. 29, 2004, four days before the Nov. 2 election, Arabic news channel Al Jazeera aired an undated video of Osama bin Laden. In the video, bin Laden told Americans that their security was
“not in the hands of Kerry, nor Bush, nor al-Qaida.”
The video boosted the already highly visible issue of terrorism in the election.
Washington Post: “The spectral image that has haunted this presidential campaign finally surfaced last weekend on television with an attack ad of his own. All that was missing was the tag line: ‘I am Osama bin Laden, and I approved this message.’ Bin Laden’s campaign video was quickly dubbed the ‘October Surprise,’ but the real surprise is something different: It is that, despite warnings by U.S. intelligence that al Qaeda was planning a pre-election attack, it hasn’t happened.”
2008: Obama’s half-aunt
In this Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009 photo, President Obama’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango, speaks to The Associated Press during an interview in her home in Boston. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
On Oct. 31, 2008, four days before the Nov. 4 election, it was reported that Zeituni Onyango, half-sister of Democratic nominee Barack Obama’s father, was living illegally in Boston. A native of Kenya, Onyango sought political asylum in 2002 but was denied by an immigration judge in 2004. In 2010, Onyango was granted a waiver and allowed to remain in the U.S.
CNN: “Before we were talking about Barack Obama, he is dealing with what some are calling an October surprise. Dealing with a surprise report tonight involving his aunt. CNN has confirmed a report that Zeituni Onyango, his late father’s sister is living in the United States illegally, four years after she was ordered to leave by an immigration judge.”