October Surprise


The last minute surprise campaign development – adopted from American presidential elections, which are held on first Tuesday of November – that can upend an election campaign and change the result.

The term likely originates from the 1968 presidential election, which pitted Republican Richard Nixon against incumbent Democratic Vice President Hubert Humphrey during the height of the unpopular Vietnam War. Nixon’s team rightly suspected that President Lyndon Johnson was planning an “October Surprise” in the form of a peace agreement with the North Vietnamese at secret Paris peace talks timed to put Humphrey over the top in the close-fought race.

Some well-placed interference from Team Nixon would scuttle the peace breakthrough, and Nixon went on to win by the thinnest of margins.

Other US “October Surprises” have included the leaking of George W. Bush’s DUI arrest record late in the 2000 presidential election. During the 1980 election, Ronald Reagan’s campaign also reportedly worried (needlessly) about an “October Surprise” release of American hostages in Tehran.

When Canadian campaigns are held in the Fall, pundits sometimes muse about whether the losing side has an “October Surprise” in store.

Image source: Wikimedia


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