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October 'surprises' flop; White House race unchanged

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Campaign 2012,Politics Digest

Over the past two days, supporters of both President Obama and Mitt Romney have tried to produce the "October surprise" that would tip a tied race toward their candidate, but their efforts got nowhere with voters deeply worried about jobs and the economy.

"An October surprise would have to be related to an issue that is prominent already in voters' minds, and it would have to be in time to change the public's view of a candidate," William Boettcher, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, told The Washington Examiner.

The last October surprise to actually threaten a presidential race was in 2000, when just before Election Day it was revealed that Republican George W. Bush had been arrested years earlier for drunken driving. In 1980, Republicans worried that President Carter was going to surprise them in the campaign's final week by arranging the release of American hostages in Iran. It didn't happen.

The first attempted October surprise this cycle came from real estate mogul, reality TV star and former Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, who said he was going to make an announcement that would reshape the presidential race. But when Trump finally revealed that he would contribute $5 million to a charity of President Obama's choice in exchange for Obama releasing personal records, it bombed.

"Trump's latest cry for attention should be ignored by everyone and will have no impact on the election," Democratic strategist Christopher Hahn told The Washington Examiner.

On Thursday, a day after Trump landed with a thud, celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred won court approval to make public Romney's sealed testimony from a friend's divorce case 20 years earlier. Allred was betting that the testimony would show that Romney lied to protect his friend, Staples Inc. co-founder Tom Stemberg. It didn't. And the fact that the judge left in place gag orders on those involved in the divorce trial didn't help.

"These tabloid charges being shopped by Gloria Allred, one of President Obama's most prominent supporters, are absolutely false," Romney's lawyer Robert Jones said Thursday.

Political analysts said the efforts by the usually media-savvy Trump and Allred were too lame to have any real impact on the presidential race. An October surprise, if it's going to shake voters in the final days of a campaign, has to be far more dramatic and tied directly to issues about which voters are concerned.

"For this election, we're talking about either a really good or really bad job report number for Obama, a stock market crash or another embassy attack," Boettcher said. "Generally, we think of those things as October surprises."

It's still possible that some revelation of previously unknown information about one of the presidential candidates could finally break the tie and give either Romney or Obama substantial momentum heading into the final days of the race, analysts said. But it would have to be far more relevant that anything offered by Allred or Trump, they said.

"Barring a confirmable sex scandal that would turn off evangelical voters, I doubt Mitt should be worried," said Hahn.

"At this stage," Democratic pollster Mike Bocian told The Examiner, "voters have their nonsense detector antennas up, so the bar is very high for these types of stories to impact the presidential race."

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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