Over the last month, I had an opportunity to speak to a number of people about this election. One thing that I have said for months in conversations at conventions to coffee shops to classrooms was, "watch out for the October surprise".
It didn't happen. Or did it?
I looked back with the help of a number of high school students today and figured that there may have been a couple of surprises or at least potential explosions at the end of the campaign.
The first potential explosion was the issue of gas prices. When Bush took office in 2000, gasoline was about $1.70 a gallon. Here in the Midwest, gasoline is now about $1.85 a gallon. A surprise, yes. But maybe not the punch we have come to expect.
The Republicans have missed a huge opportunity to address this issue and spin the reduction of gas prices to their favor. They could have used the success of the surge in Iraq as part of the reason. They could have used the leadership of the president and the bailout with the idea that the GOP was getting tough on companies and a threat of a corporate takeover. They could have used the talk of the off-shore drilling to bring down the price of imported oil.
Now, none of these things seem to be the real reason. But in politics, what is important is perception but reality.
The second possible opportunity to jump start the campaign with an explosion was the war in Iraq. Using the surge as a plus, the Bush administration could have announced a major reduction in troops, many to be home by Christmas or Inauguration Day. The announcement of a troop reduction in Vietnam served the Humphrey campaign well in 1968, almost swaying enough voters to stay with the party in power.
But W. didn't help McCain that way, either.
Either of these issues could have been used by the McCain campaign in order to jump start his campaign. But they didn't. They missed opportunities to turn this around. And they may regret it.
The only thing that could help Obama in the last day or so is something that the 2004 Democratic ticket didn't use. The sympathy vote.
You see, Americans are suckers and want to FEEL better about most everything they do.
In 2004, word was that VP nominee John Edwards and his wife had received the news about Elisabeth's breast cancer. They found out about the cancer on Thursday or Friday before Election Day. By announcing the health issues of Elizabeth over the weekend, some may have changed their vote because of the thinking, "let's vote for Elizabeth's husband so she can see his dream of the White House come true." It would have worked better if Edwards was on the top of the ticket. But they chose to keep the issue quiet and the Kerry / Edwards ticket lost.
Emotionally, Obama's campaign could benefit from the release of the news of the death of the candidate's grandmother. Now, before you get all upset at me, remember we want to feel good about what we do. It's not that Obama needs a sympathy vote but he could benefit a little from that among the undecided.
So no surprise. And no sympathy vote.
You mean we have to choose based on the issues?