“October Surprises"...the unforeseen
shockers that change the course of an election, and therefore change the course
of history. It used to be that “October Surprises” were acts of God, startling facts
just coming to light, or recordings that were never meant to see the light of
day. But this is the era of Trump. Knowing the full power of an “October
Surprise,” any number of people are working frantically right now to manufacture
RBG. The Breonna Taylor Grand Jury decision. Trump's refusal to commit to respecting the
concept of the “peaceful transition of power.” And now, The Atlantic reports that the Trump campaign is exploring ways to bypass the will of the people by pressuring Republican-held state legislatures to send an alternative slate of Trump-loyalist electors to the Electoral College.
Those are the shocking
headlines in just the last five days.
Sure, it is still September, but it
feels like every day is bringing a textbook “October Surprise…” the kind of unforeseen
bombshell news story late in an election cycle that can fundamentally change
the course of the race.
U.S. presidential elections have a
history of being dramatically influenced by “October Surprises,” events
that throw the momentum in the direction of one candidate at a point so close
to the election that the opponent has no time to recover. We can trace the concept
of the “October Surprise” back to Richard Nixon’s 1968 promise that he had a
“secret plan” to end the war in Vietnam. Nixon’s perverse claim was nauseating
to anyone with an intellectual pulse: “Hey, Tricky, if you know how to
immediately stop the maiming and killing of our soldiers, tell us now
instead of conditioning your brilliant solution on your election.”
Recent elections have actually seen multiple
“October Surprises.” In 2012 (September, actually), a tape was released of Mitt
Romney addressing a private meeting of wealthy donors in which he said “there
are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter
what," alleging that these people are "dependent upon government ...
believe that they are victims ... believe the government has a responsibility
to care for them ... these are people who pay no income tax." Then, just
days before the election, Hurricane Sandy devastated the East coast, and
President Barack Obama flew to New Jersey to discuss Federal disaster relief
with Governor Chris Christie. Republican Christie gushed effusively in
praise of the Democratic President’s decisive action in a crisis. These
two events did much to seal Romney’s fate.
But leave it to the hot mess of an
election in 2016 to contain the most devastating “October Surprises” in
In early October, 2016, Donald
Trump’s campaign appeared to have been stopped dead in its tracks by the
emergence of the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump gleefully bragged that
his fame gave him permission to sexually violate women. In the conference rooms
of major Republican donors, there was urgent talk of demanding that Trump
abdicate and let Mike Pence take the top spot on the ticket.
And yet weeks later, the momentum of
the campaign would be reversed, as FBI Director James Comey torpedoed Hillary
Clinton’s election prospects by announcing that he was re-opening the
investigation into her emails and then issuing his “exoneration” letter even
closer to election day, stirring the pot yet again. Comey’s announcement violated FBI protocols,
and tipped the balance in a tight election to Trump.
The shockers in the past two
elections alone make us wary that “October Surprises” can – and repeatedly have
-- thoroughly altered the trajectory of a Presidential election. But the
unique anti-democratic actions of Donald Trump should put us all on guard that
the “October surprises” of 2020 will not just be random acts of nature or
the overreach of bumbling, self-important FBI Directors. The surprises
this time may be thoroughly planned, calculated actions on the part of the
campaigns, news organizations, and even foreign countries, all designed to have
maximum impact in the final days of the election… when it is essentially too
late for a candidate to respond to or recover from a particularly devastating
Given Donald Trump’s legendary flair
for deceit, we have to recognize that “October surprises” need not be grounded
in fact at all. Political operatives with rudimentary skills in photoshop and
the moral compass of Josef Goebbels can concoct a brutal “October surprise”
like a magician, creating doubt, shame, and an aura of guilt on an innocent
opponent. In the wake of the latest egregious Supreme Court hypocrisy from McConnell and Graham, it is clear that Republicans follow no
rules… not even the ones they make up.
And, of course, Donald Trump has
repeatedly demonstrated throughout his time in office that the only way he
knows how to deal with a negative story is to create even more shocking
headlines that change the subject. The death of RBG not only gave Trump the
opportunity to profoundly alter the composition of the Supreme Court, it has
become just one more story that changes the subject away from Trump’s miserable
management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump would love an October filled with
surprises that prevent the media, Joe Biden, and the public from focusing on
his actual record.
But do not presume that the
Republican Party and their Pravda propaganda machine, Fox News, are alone in
planning these bombshells. Foreign governments who see an advantage in the
election of a specific party could take actions calculated to help or
hinder a candidate. And reputable news organizations are no doubt racing to
uncover the secret that could blow the lid off a presidential campaign. The
difference is that The New York Times would only publish a story based on
factual evidence, where the Trump campaign and Fox will eagerly make stuff up
if they think it would work.
Sure, it is fair to speculate that in
2020, the impact of “late October surprises” might be muffled by the fact that
this year so many Americans will be voting well before election day. Yet it is
equally plausible to suggest that the very people who are waiting to the last
minute to vote are the ones who are undecided… and therefore the most
vulnerable to such last-minute manipulation.
It is with these realities -- and very real phobias -- that we
consider ten “October Surprises” that could be coming to a television near you
in the final weeks of the 2020 campaign.
1.Trump’s instantly universally
available vaccine panacea.
Count on it: Donald Trump will call
a major press conference in late October to formally announce that there is a proven,
effective, and safe coronavirus vaccine... whether there is one or not, and whether any of the promising trials has actually been fully completed. Trump believes that a vaccine is the trump card that can fully negate his abject failure in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, and he will do anything and everything to claim credit that one is ready and imminently available. Indeed, his real “October Surprise” may be to insist that the vaccine will be broadly available within
weeks after the election.
Trump may not be enough of a student
of history to be familiar with the practices of the Third Reich, but the
essence of Nazi propaganda was the belief that the vast swath of the population
was comprised of unthinking, gullible oafs, who were particularly susceptible
to the “Big Lie,” the outrageous assertion that they deeply want to believe.
Americans desperately want the coronavirus to, in Trump’s famous words,
“magically disappear,” and Trump is ready to promise that a vaccine will be
ready immediately after election day in order to get re-elected. Hey, he won’t
be proven wrong until after the election, so what does he care?
But it won’t just be a “Big Lie,” it
will be an enormous lie. When the head of the CDC informed the Senate
about the likelihood that the vaccine would not be available to mass
populations until “late second quarter, third quarter of 2021,” Trump tried to
overrule him, announcing that he had “incorrect information.” Trump is absolutely
determined to change the public view of his inept, ignorant management of
the COVID-19 pandemic by scoring a “Hail Mary” with a coronavirus
And, of course, knowing Trump as we
now do, he will probably wander way off script in his press conference and claim
that the formula for the vaccine was his idea, that Obama couldn’t do it, and
that he will prioritize the availability of the vaccine to all the swings states
that vote for him.
No matter how many scientists,
pharma executives, and public health officials try to tell the public the
truth, Trump's vaccine "October Surprise" will be successful, if only in further deceiving the true believers who he desperately needs to turn out in droves in order to keep the election close. The damage will be done, as Fox News will put Trump’s vaccine claim in
the “A bloc” of every hour until election day.
2. William Barr will announce the
“findings” of his probe into the origins of the Russia investigation.
Here is another “October Surprise”
that has been in the works for months. Last year, Barr assigned U.S. Attorney
John Durham of Connecticut the task of investigating the motivations and
processes of the U.S. intelligence operations that ultimately led to the
Mueller investigation and the impeachment of Trump.
Barr’s “investigation” is a naked
ploy to turn the massive evidence of the Trump campaign’s 2016 collusion with
Russia into liability for Biden. Last week Nora Dannehy, a top prosecutor in
the probe, resigned because – according to interviews with her colleagues
-- she felt that Barr was exerting
inappropriate pressure to produce findings before election day.
Expect Barr to make a big
announcement the last week in October that Durham’s investigation has concluded
that the Obama/Biden White House ordered a surreptitious effort by our
intelligence operations to dig up dirt and manufacture bogus information designed to damage Trump’s candidacy. Fact? No. It will be a replay of Barr's heinous misrepresentation of the findings of the Mueller investigation.
And as sickening as it is to
contemplate, we should not be surprised if the grossly corrupt Barr announces
that criminal charges “should be considered” against Barack Obama and Joe Biden
for their “central role” in “using their executive powers to direct the
intelligence agencies to generate a false narrative in order to discredit a
Yes, irony is rarely recognized by
the cast of the Trump Puppet Show.
3. Pre-election “proof” that the
election has been “rigged.”
Trump’s game plan is now crystal
clear: turn out his base in droves on the hope of making the elections close enough in swing states that
he can claim that he lost because massive voter fraud. He then will contest
the results in court, and will count on his new 6-3 majority in the Supreme Court
to overturn the will of the people and hand him a second term.
However, rather than wait until after
election day, expect Louis DeJoy, the political appointee heading the U.S. Post
Office, to announce in late October that he has already been presented
with “incontrovertible evidence” of “massive voter fraud” on the part of the
Democrats in key swing states.
Who would put it past the corrupt Republican
Party to actually print thousands of bogus mail-in voter forms, and then
present their own fraudulent forms as evidence that had been “discovered in the
mail system,” as clear proof of the Democrats tampering in the ballot
The October surprise: the Republicans won’t wait for
the election results, and won’t wait until the ballots are already in the hands of election
officials. They will attempt to poison the well in advance by claiming to already have evidence of
voter fraud before Election Day.
4. Allegations of illicit and
abusive sexual behavior by Biden.
It’s actually pretty easy to
manufacture an “October Surprise” from thin air. Imagine that Fox News
announces that it has “explosive video evidence” that proves that Joe Biden
used his power as Vice President to force a woman into a non-consensual sexual
Here is where Photoshop artists will
have a field day. Suddenly, in late October, photographs emerge on
sketchy news outlets that allege to show Joe Biden entering the home of a
suburban Washington woman who will accuse him of using the power of his office
to demand sexual favors. It will be easy enough to generate: simply hire a man
of comparable age and build to Biden, and photograph him at the front door of the woman’s home. Then
hire a loyal Republican woman to make the allegation.
A modest amount of Photoshop
artistry will make the “visitor” appear to be Biden.
has happened so often, Fox News does not feel a need to authenticate a
story. They'd just constantly air "reports of the Joe Biden sex scandal"
on a continuous loop until the election.
5. Trumped-up “medical evidence”
that Joe Biden’s mental faculties are compromised by “rapidly advancing
We should expect it: some
organization – the Russians, a White supremacist cult, Qanon – will attempt to create a
bogus medical file that allegedly chronicles Joe Biden’s "eroding mental acuity," which
will be “leaked,” having been supposedly smuggled out of a private medical
facility by a “whistle blower” who felt that it was crucial that the nation was
aware of Biden’s supposed mental deterioration.
It will all be fake. But Fox
News will eat it up.
6. A foreign power will make a major
announcement designed to enhance Trump’s stature.
If Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong-un
want to keep their puppet in the White House, one of their best ploys would be
to make Trump look good on the international stage.
How about if Vladimir Putin decides
that late October would be the perfect time to announce that he wishes to
engage in comprehensive nuclear disarmament negotiations if Donald Trump is
re-elected President? What if Kim Jong-un issues an utterly disingenuous statement
that based on his admiration for and trust of Donald Trump, he wishes to normalize
relations with South Korea and abandon his own nuclear aspirations if Trump is re-elected?
It doesn’t matter if these intentions
are forgotten the minute the election is over. They’d help accomplish the
common goal of these two dictators: keep Trump in office.
Ok, it this all too depressing? Remember:
not all of the “October surprises” will be designed to damage
There’s no doubt that respected
journalists in highly reputable news organizations are aggressively pursuing
every possible source to get at the truth about some of the biggest liabilities
in Donald Trump’s flimsy façade.
7. The real story about Trump's unscheduled trip to Walter Reed.
In November, 2019, Trump made a
hastily arranged visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and the
explanation at the time – that Trump was simply completing a delayed portion of
his annual physical – raised more questions than answers. Recently, Michael
Schmidt of The New York Times reported in a new book that Mike Pence had been
instructed to be “on standby” during Trump’s time at the hospital.
What was curious is that Donald
Trump responded to Schmidt’s book with a tweet denying that he had suffered a
series of “mini-strokes,” but Schmidt had never mentioned “mini-strokes”
in the book. The two weeks that Trump spent chanting “person woman man camera
tv” as evidence of his sturdy mental capacity seemed to be further evidence
that Trump doth protest a bit too much.
Bet your bottom dollar that
enterprising reporters are probing every contact to find out exactly why Trump
made that unscheduled visit. Given his two-handed water glass lifts, his
constant mangling of language, and his perverse psychological need to project
his own weaknesses, sins, failings, and deceits onto his opponents, it’s a good
bet that where there is smoke there is fire.
Were facts to come out in October indicating that significant medical incident had occurred -- one which was concealed
from the public -- it would be another gut punch to Trump’s prospects.
8. A smoking gun about “what Putin has on Trump”
If there is a Holy Grail of
investigative journalism, it goes to the reporter who finally figures out
exactly why Donald Trump kneels before Vladimir Putin, refusing to confront the
Russian despot on his election meddling, the poisoning of his political
opponents, and for putting a bounty on the heads of American soldiers. Putin’s
grip on Trump is so overwhelming and yet so mysterious that Americans ache for
an explanation. The journalist who can decisively solve this riddle will be
Woodward, Bernstein, Cronkite, Bradlee, and Edward R. Murrow rolled into
If a reporter can deliver a major
revelation on this subject – concrete proof of financial debt to Putin,
recordings of Trump’s personal involvement in soliciting Putin’s help in the
2016 election, or evidence that Putin possesses has personal dirt on Trump – it could drop a neutron
bomb on Trump’s re-election prospects.
9. Evidence of criminal activity by
the Trump Organization in New York.
We’ve all been aware of the cat and
mouse game between New York District Attorney Cy Vance and Trump’s lawyers as the
New York prosecutor draws ever closer to getting his hands on Donald Trump’s
tax records. Similarly, New York State Attorney General Letitia James recently
took legal measures to force Eric Trump to testify about the financial dealings
of the Trump Organization, which he has now agreed to do… after the election.
Neither governmental enforcement agency appears ready to actually charge Trump
or his company with criminal behavior, and it remains a matter of unsettled law
whether charges can even be brought against a sitting President.
However, don’t rule out a classic
massive investigative probe by The New York Times that provides enough fact to
hypothesize about the scope and magnitude of criminality tied directly to Trump
in his role as head of the Trump Organization.
10. George W. Bush and Barack Obama
join forces to endorse Biden.
There is already been a formidable
cast of Republican bold-faced names who have either refused to endorse Donald
Trump for President, or who have actually come out and endorsed Joe Biden.
Colin Powell, John Kasich, Chuck
Hagel, Cindy McCain, and Christine Todd Whitman have all endorsed Biden. Former
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has openly excoriated Trump’s leadership, and
William H. McRaven, the retired Navy admiral who directed the raid that killed
Osama bin Laden, has openly opposed Trump’s re-election. Alaska Senator Lisa
Murkowski is “struggling” with whether to support Trump or not. The Republican
candidate for President who preceded Trump – Mitt Romney – voted to impeach
Trump and will not support his re-election.
So far, the defections of these
prominent Republicans has elicited a yawn from the Trump faithful.
However, there is one name and one
action that could possibly be damaging to Trump.
George W. Bush, who used to be the
most vilified Republican President until Donald Trump came along, is now remarkably
popular. When Bush left office in 2009, his approval rating was an
appalling 33% -- actually less than Donald Trump’s rating at its worst. But
popular opinion has changed. By 2018, approval of George W. Bush had soared to
61%. It’s fair to say that Bush is far, far more popular today than Trump.
What if Bush – the last Republican
President – teamed up with Barack Obama to film a joint endorsement of Joe
Imagine if these two party icons
collaborated on a video that condemned Trump’s divisiveness, disrespect for the
Constitution, and his assertion that those who fought and died in our military
are “losers?” Perhaps it is unlikely. But George W. Bush must be seething at
the gross disrespect that Trump has shown him, his father, his brother, the
office of the Presidency, and the military in which his father so nobly served.
Maybe. Just maybe.
There you have it. Ten possible
October surprises... and yet we could go on forever.
Of course the real truth is that the
ones that can’t be predicted that always seem to be the most crushing.
And, yet, then again, would any of
it make the slightest difference?
Could any “October surprises” really
change the course of the election in the way Jim Comey threw the 2016 election
to Donald Trump?
Many would argue that minds are
already made up, and the truth of it is that through all the twists, turns, and news cycles in recent weeks, the national polling on the presidential race has remained remarkable stable.
It certainly feels that after every disgrace, lie, and assault on the Constitution in the past three years, nothing on heaven or earth would convince a Trump
loyalist to abandon him at this point.
Sadly, it’s actually far easier to
imagine a Biden support being alienated by an allegation of wrong-doing than a
Trump supporter: the latter have been conditioned to believe that all negative
press about the president is “fake news,” and none of the outrages he has
committed in office have made the slightest dent in their devotion.
But it all comes down to this: Trump
is going to do every single thing he can to steal this election: lying about
his accomplishments, lying about his opponent, suppressing the vote, casting
doubt on the validity of the results, attempting to undermine the Electoral College, and screaming that it is all rigged… all, likely, with the simple goal of
taking the decision out of the hands of the people and putting it in the hands
of a Republican majority Supreme Court.
We've said it many times before: Donald Trump desperately needs to retain the presidency because he knows that it is the only way he will stay out of jail. He will do anything to win.
The past four years have been a
nightmare, 2020 has been a catastrophe, and yet still we must understand this:
it is actually going to get worse before it gets better.
If, indeed, it ever gets
It's time to get back to the phone banks, the post cards, and making the donations -- no matter how many urgent emails you end up getting from John Hickenlooper. The time is now to do everything we can to win big -- to win by a big enough margin in enough states that Trump's effort to characterize his loss as a fraud will collapse.
Buckle your seat belts, America.
We’ve predicted ten “October surprises.” And yet is likely that the ones we
haven’t predicted are going to be the ones that really rock the election.
Just ask President Hillary
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