PerryScope: by Perry Diaz
Rumors were abounding in the media about an "October Surprise" by John McCain that would shatter the presidential aspiration of Barack Obama. But as it turned out, the "October Surprise" was on McCain -- Obama pulled ahead of McCain in the battleground states.
On October 4, 2008, it was reported on the news that "Sen. John McCain and his Republican allies are readying a newly aggressive assault on Sen. Barack Obama's character, believing that to win in November they must shift the conversation back to questions about the Democrat's judgment, honesty and personal associations." By attacking Obama's character, McCain hoped that it would put Obama on the defensive; thus, distracting him from discussing the economic crisis and outlining his economic recovery plan.
As soon as the decision to assault Obama's character was made, McCain unleashed his running mate Gov. Sarah Palin to attack Obama. That day, she told three separate rallies that Obama is "not a man who sees America like you and I see America," and accused him of "palling around" with William Ayers -- co-founder of the radical Weather Underground in the 1960's -- whom she called a "domestic terrorist." She told the agitated crowds that Obama is "not one of us." On that same day, McCain who was addressing a crowd in New Mexico called Obama a "mystery, a liar, complicit in the economic crisis and an unaccomplished naif, at all the same time."
For two weeks, McCain and Palin were doing their demolition job on Obama. But Obama was indestructible only because he chose not to respond to the "low blows" of McCain and Palin. McCain finally realized that these "low blows" were hurting him more than it hurt Obama. The polls were showing Obama's rating going over 51% while McCain's was hovering at around 42%. With less than two weeks left in the campaign, McCain changed his strategy back to selling his economic plan. But to his dismay, a lot of Americans had already bought Obama's economic plan and many have already cast their votes in states that allowed early voting.
If that was the "October Surprise" that McCain had bandied about, it turned out to be nothing more than a distraction. However, a series of surprises occurred that helped Obama's campaign. The "Big Surprise" came on October 19 when retired Gen. Colin Powell announced on NBC's Meet the Press that he will vote for Obama . He said, "I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities -- and you have to take that into account -- as well as his substance -- he has both style and substance. He has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president."
Powell was critical of McCain's campaign tactics including the controversial "rob calls" that tried to link Obama to Ayers. He was also critical of McCain's judgment in selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate. Powell said, "Now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don't believe she is ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president."
Powell also criticized some Republicans for insinuating that Obama is a Muslim. He said, "Well, the correct answer is: he is not a Muslim, he is a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is: what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no; that is not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He is a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America."
Many believe that Powell's endorsement of Obama and blistering critique of McCain's campaign tactics could have a devastating blow to McCain's candidacy and which could sway the undecided voters to Obama, particularly in the battleground states.
Four days later, there were a cluster of surprises. Scott McClellan, President Bush's former Press Secretary announced on the "D.L. Hughley Breaks the News" that he is going to vote for Obama. McClellan said, "From the very beginning I've said I am going to support the candidate who has the best chance of changing the way Washington works and getting things done. I will be voting for Barack Obama."
On the same day, Alison Goldwater, granddaughter of former Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, voted early for Barack Obama. She said of McCain, "I don't have respect for him." It's interesting to note that McCain has oftentimes claimed to be a "Barry Goldwater" Republican. Apparently, Alison didn't think so.
Also on the same day, Arne Carlson, former Republican Governor of Minnesota, endorsed Obama for president. She said, "He has laid out for this nation a vision for a national purpose."
And in a desperate act, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the fund-raising arm of Republican senatorial candidates across the country, is now running ads that "presume" that McCain will lose.
Yesterday, I was surprised when I was reading an email from a friend who was a supporter of McCain. She said that she checked her IRA account in preparation for her retirement and was shocked to find out that she lost $36,000! She was devastated because she may not be able to retire next year. She promised that she will vote for Obama.
My friend's story is not uncommon. In early October, about 100 million Americans received a letter that shattered their dreams. Everyone received the same message. The letter told them that their savings -- IRAs, 401Ks, mutual funds, etc. -- were 30% down this year.
The pain, loss, and stress suffered by these 100 million Americans is a testament to the failed economic policies of President Bush. Are they going to vote for McCain or Obama? More than likely they -- like my friend who lost $36,000 -- would vote for Obama. This election is not about politics, it's all about the economy. That… is the "October Surprise."