With debates near, candidates prepare for October surprise
The national election is just days away and both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are preparing for the presidential debates. At the same time, they're wondering if there's an October surprise, some pivotal moment, waiting in the wings to upset the whole race and shake things up.
Both of the leading presidential candidates are cramming for Wednesday night’s presidential debate — the first of three before the Nov. 6 election.
Most polls show President Barack Obama leading rival Mitt Romney nationally and widening his lead in key swing states. A RealClearPolitics.com average of polls shows Obama with a 3.5 point margin over Romney.
But now it’s October, the month political operatives worry about — famous for surprises that have changed the game in many campaigns. If the debates not enough to switch things up, a key jobs report — the second to last before the election — will be released Friday.
Michael Shear, national political reporter for the New York Times, said to an extent, some of the surprise factor has already been worked into the election, especially for Mitt Romney.
"The 47 percent came last month," Shear said. "But, these last 30 days, the closer we get to election day, the more the political world sites on the edge of their seats."
If there's something that is waiting in the wings to surprise Obama, it's the stark criticism his administration is taking for incorrect, at least, or downright dishonest statements it made about the days and hours before and after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Already, Romney was moving to take advantage of a weakness in Obama's campaign.
"He, I think, wants to bring this up in the debate. The debate is supposed to be about economic policy and domestic policy. But these things have a way of morphing into whatever the candidates want to talk about," Shear said.
While foreign policy, which has been an Obama strength, may shift the election landscape, economic indicators will also likely play a role. Obama has been fortunate in that, so far, relatively tepid economic data haven't hurt him.
"If it's about where we've been, I'm not sure it has much impact either way. But, you could imagine, if for some reason for the first time in months and months and months we actually had a net job loss, that that would be really damaging to the president's case," Shear said. "On the other hand, if by some chance one of these numbers presents that there were hundreds of thousands of jobs added in the previous month, that would obviously be hard for Mitt Romney to make his case."
But before any of that, the candidates will have to get through the debates. To be sure, debates have rarely been the deciding factor in an election.
Shear said you can put too much importance on these debates, but, he cautioned, history is just a guide.
"Sometimes, things happen that haven't happened before. We've never re-elected an incumbent president with unemployment above 8 percent," he pointed out.
And yet, all signs point to Obama enjoying a small but so far insurmountable lead over Romney, despite unemployment being around 8.2 percent.
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