Hey undecided voters…surprise! It’s October!

By Scott Green

As the presidential campaigns round third and head into the home stretch on a Hail Mary buzzer beater hat trick of sports metaphors, there’s one certainty: You will be stunned.

It’s the season when desperate campaigns or excitable media pull some stunt or release information they expect will shock voters into changing their minds. They’re called “October Surprises,” but they’re not the good kind of surprises like when you’re about to cut into your birthday cake and out jumps a scantily clad woman. They’re more like the bad kind of surprises where you don’t know about the scantily clad woman until after you cut the cake.

When one candidate knows he is trailing, and that time is running out, it’s only natural for him to use everything he’s got. These guys are running for the presidency! That’s a higher political office even than the one held by the guy who used to play a muscle-bound robot from the future who for some reason spoke with an Austrian accent! I mean, the president even gets to throw out the first pitch of the baseball season every year, which is one 3000th of the pitches Randy Johnson throws, and that guy has five Cy Young awards! So being president is a pretty big deal.

You’ve seen October Surprises before. Think back to 2000 when, in the days before the election, it came out that George W. Bush had been arrested for drunk driving in 1976, or four years ago when the country was shocked to learn John Kerry had, for much of his life, served in the U.S. Congress.

Actually, in October 2004 there were rumors Osama bin Laden had been captured months before, but that the Bush administration was waiting until the moments before the election to announce it. When this speculation reached the president, he suspended the hunt for the terrorist mastermind because he didn’t want the capture to look like a political stunt. This is also why Bush choked on a pretzel in 2002: he was concerned that not choking on a pretzel would look like a ploy.

These were hardly the first October Surprises in American politics. In 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr shot and killed former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in a duel after Hamilton said Burr’s momma was so fat, the King tried to sail an armada around her but ran out of seamen. This was an especially startling October Surprise because it occurred in July, although nobody found out about it until three months later because they only had dial-up internet.

So what can we expect to see this year? Political blog Votejacked.com had a great idea: What if Sarah Palin’s pregnant 17-year old daughter, Bristol, got married? Votejacked didn’t specify whom Bristol should wed – presumably it would be Levi Johnston, the father of her unborn child – but it couldn’t hurt John McCain’s chances if she instead married Shia LaBeouf. Barack Obama couldn’t even retaliate in kind by marrying off his 10-year-old daughter, Malia, because all the good Illinois wedding bands are booked.

Anyway, if Bristol gets married, it would give her mother a reasonable excuse to dodge tough questions from journalists (“What is your recipe for moose stew?”), with the exception of anything on the economy, for which she could give cute one-line answers about how expensive weddings are. (“Bailout? I could use a bailout buying my daughter’s wedding dress. It’s mooseskin!”)

Further, Votejacked speculates, anyone from the Obama camp who accuses the wedding of being an electoral trick would be reamed in the press, since marriage is a sacred institution that cannot be broken unless you fall in love with a beer heiress 18 years your junior on a 1979 trip to Hawaii you took with your first wife, Carol McCain.

Of course, the odds of this happening to Bristol Palin are low, and so the media would have no choice but to offer wall-to-wall coverage of her something old (McCain), something new (people caring about Alaska), something borrowed (her mother’s fertility), and something blue (the groom).

Scott is a third-year law student. He’s willing to marry Shia if Bristol won’t.