- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 13, 2020

Let us examine the history of “October surprise,” a phrase that emerged 40 years ago when Ronald Reagan challenged incumbent Jimmy Carter for the White House. At the time, Reagan publicly expressed concern about “a mud-slinging campaign against him by President Carter and an ‘October surprise’ designed to bolster the President’s reelection prospects,” The Los Angeles Times noted on July 26, 1980.

Two days later, Time magazine proclaimed that Reagan expected Mr. Carter to “pull what they call ‘the October surprise,’ meaning that shortly before Election Day, Carter will inflate the importance of some overseas event in an attempt to rally the country around him.”

These days, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the “October surprise” like this: “A revelation disclosed in the month prior to an election, often orchestrated in the hopes of dramatically influencing the result.”

Now we must make room, however, for an earlier surprise, Politico now cites “Woodward’s September surprise” — which is, of course, Bob Woodward‘s new book “Rage,” due in bookstores on Tuesday. Select passages were leaked to the press last week suggesting President Trump “was playing down” the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic.

Momentum is building, however. There will be a mother lode of such damning material available come Monday following Mr. Woodward’s appearance on CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday night.

“Panicked Democrats and their September surprises come fast and furious,” writes Roger Simon, a columnist for the Epoch Times who offers such examples as the never-ending “Russian collusion” accusations against Mr. Trump, along with recent — and debunked — claims that he dishonored servicemen who died in World War I.

Expect more. Much more.

“It’s our quadrennial national sport — the October Surprise — or is it now the September Surprise? Or, for that matter the November-December-January Surprise, if, as many predict, the election is not concluded Nov. 3 and becomes an endless battle of lawyers over every hanging chad or mail-in vote signed, sealed, and delivered,” predicts Mr. Simon.


Millions of campaign dollars are being spent determining how to woo those who favor President Trump and those who prefer Joseph R. Biden. The traits and preferences of these voters are often wildly different. But they do agree on one thing.

“While supporters of President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden do not agree on much — there is consensus that foreign countries are trying to interfere in the upcoming presidential election,” reports Kathy Frankovic, a senior analyst with YouGov, the very busy pollster.

“Voters agree that both Russia and China are trying to influence the upcoming election or spread disinformation in order to destabilize the United States. Voters are most likely to see Russia as trying to influence the election (68% of registered voters say this), and next is China (57%). A third believe Iran is. Biden voters are much more focused on Russia; Trump voters are focused on China’s possible influence,” Ms. Frankovic writes.

She cites numbers from an Economist/YouGov survey of 1,500 U.S. adults, conducted from Sunday to Tuesday.


Attorney General William Barr had a thing or two to say about the news media during a perfectly splendid interview with Townhall.com editor Katie Pavlich, who spoke with Mr. Barr when both were on the same flight into the nation’s capital on Friday.

Here’s what he said about the press.

“They’re basically a collection of liars. Most of the mainstream media. They’re a collection of liars and they know exactly what they’re doing,” Mr. Barr said, citing faulty news coverage of street riots in particular.

“The press has dropped — and I’m talking about the national mainstream media — has dropped any pretense of professional objectivity and are political actors, highly partisan, who try to shape what they’re reporting to achieve a political purpose and support a political narrative that has nothing to do with the truth,” he said.

“They’re very mendacious about it. It’s very destructive to our republic; it’s very destructive to the democratic system to have that, especially being so monolithic. It’s contributing to a lot of the intensity and partisanship.”


Author and humorist P.J. O’Rourke has written his 19th book, due to arrive Tuesday and titled “A Cry from the Far Middle: Dispatches from a Divided Land” which contains entries titled “Whose Bright Idea Was It to Make Sure that Every Idiot in the World Is in Touch with Every Other Idiot?” and “Just Give Them the Money.”

Mr. O’Rourke — who has chronicled many a political and cultural folly — has thoughtfully included a quiz in his book for readers to determine whether they are a “Coastal” or a “Heartlander.” He also makes a strong case for the cause of licensing politicians, among other things.

“I’m betting that human nature will triumph over challenge and adversity. And I don’t mean that in a good way,” summarizes Mr. O’Rourke.

The author makes a live online appearance Tuesday courtesy of the Cato Institute, talking up the book and more with David Boaz, executive vice president of the organization. Things get underway at 1 p.m. Eastern; Mr. O’Rourke will take questions as well.

Register for the event and submit your query for the author at Cato.org/events.


• 60% of U.S. adults say they “definitely will vote” in the presidential election; 67% of Republicans, 44% of independents and 76% of Democrats agree.

• 10% overall say they “probably will vote”; 13% of Republicans, 10% of independents and 7% of Democrats agree.

• 6% say they “maybe will vote”; 6% of Republicans, 7% of independents and 5% of Democrats agree.

• 4% say they “probably will not vote”; 6% of Republicans, 6% of independents and 1% of Democrats agree.

• 15% say they “definitely will not vote” in the election; 7% of Republicans, 25% of independents and 7% of Democrats agree.

• 5% don’t know whether they will vote; 2% of Republicans, 7% of independents and 4% of Democrats agree.

Source: An Economist/YouGov poll of 1,500 U.S. adults conducted Sept. 6-8.

• Helpful information to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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