How much can an October Surprise do?
The history of the October surprise varies. Some things happened in early October, some in the fall. The most famous October surprise may be Nixon’s announcement in 1972 that the Vietnam War was winding down. That surprise was of the candidate’s own making and probably was not necessary for victory. In fact, most surprises don’t seem to affect the fundamentals of an election. In 1980, Carter probably lost because of oil prices and the GOP’s new courting of evangelical Christians rather than the hostage situation.
The weekend before the 2000 election, a drunk driving citation was unearthed involving George W. Bush. Not only was this a sign of bad judgement, which Bush had previously admitted to, but it occurred after Bush said religion had helped him stop drinking. This character assassination was targeted directly at conservative Christians the Democrats lost 2 decades earlier. It probably cost Bush the popular vote, along with the media calling the race for Gore early in the night and likely depressing the Republican vote.
This year, Donald Trump’s moral failings were introduced in early October, except that Trump is full of moral failings, including affairs with wives 2 and three while married to wives 1 and 2, respectively. This time, however, evangelicals learned from the Islamists. Immorality in the service of a higher power is a strategic sacrifice. There was little effect on Trump’s support, except at the party level.
Now we have more Clinton e-mails about a week away. 20% of the vote has already been placed in the box. However, early voters are the most determined and there are few who wish they could get that ballot back. Even if the FBI closes the investigation this week, there will be a new cloud over Hillary Clinton. However, the goal is to keep her from winning.
I suspect that the GOP can use this scandal to hold the Senate and encourage opposition a likely Clinton victory. Unfortunately, the Democrats are still kings at dragging low-information Democrats to the polls in number large enough to win swing states.