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October Surprises

Beware of startling reservations late in the campaign

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 4:59 a.m. CST

When the end draws near and prospects darken, and polls solidify in the wrong direction, and the base sinks lower than the toenail clippings of a Galapagos turtle, does the practiced political operative give up? No sir, they whip out their secret weapon. Not the candidate’s spouse. The real ace up the sleeve -- The October Surprise.

Every campaign has one. Or more. It’s a piece of opposition research stashed away for a rainy day. For safe-keeping, behind glass, like a fire axe: “Open in the event of impending doom.” Something so incendiary it’s concealed in an asbestos-lined box buried deep in the back of the campaign manager’s underwear drawer.

A last-minute revelation guaranteed to rip the skin off the opponent’s slick exterior and expose him or her to be the morally bereft, fire-breathing extremist everyone was secretly afraid they were. Then again, it could be a tax cut or lavish promise or a grandstanding, self-inflating shot of adrenaline. “You never suspected I was this good, did you?”

Even front-runners need to be prepared. After all, one good October Surprise deserves another.

“They pull a knife. You pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago Way. And that’s how you get Romney.”

The October Surprise is the joker in the American electoral deck of cards. Dealt under the table and below the belt. After minds have been made up and money spent, a well-played OS can turn a game around quicker than three crews of NFL replacement refs. Here’s a sample of the sort of shenanigans we can expect in the coming month.

OCTOBER 8: Barack Obama announces a deal with Jamba Juice to place coupons for free fruit smoothies on the backs of all 1040 forms.

OCTOBER 11: Immediately after vice presidential debate, Joe Biden disappears for rest of campaign. Nobody, including family and personal staff, notices. The police don’t suspect foul play. Then again, they don’t rule it out either.

OCTOBER 13: Mitt Romney vows, if elected, to write a $250 personal check to every man, woman and child in America. Fox News calls this a game changer.

OCTOBER 15: Donald Trump unveils a cave painting in Provence, France that portrays a figure that looks eerily like Barack Obama descending from what appears to be a space ship.

OCTOBER 18: On way to a rally in Langley, Va., Barack Obama stops motorcade to run into burning building, saving 3-year-old twins.

OCTOBER 19: Inspired by Larry Ellison’s purchase of the Hawaiian Island of Lanai, the Koch brothers offer $200 billion for Ohio. As is.

OCTOBER 21: On the way to church, Romney personally beats off masked bullies who are attempting to impale a litter of puppies with nail guns. Shar Pei puppies. The cutest kind.

OCTOBER 24: Blurry YouTube video surfaces showing Barack Obama chain smoking cigarettes in the loading bay of a Toledo convention center before a fund raiser.

OCTOBER 28: The State Comptroller of Ohio announces the Koch brothers sale cannot go through due to the fact that George Soros has already acquired 60 percent of the state.

OCTOBER 30: The LA Times releases grainy time-lapse photographic evidence of Mitt Romney at a Portsmouth, N.H. coffee shop downing three triple espressos.

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The New York Times says five-time Emmy- nominated comedian and writer Will Durst “is quite possibly the best political comic working in the country today.” E-mail Will at durst@caglecartoons.com.

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