October surprises could not matter within the 2022 midterms

October 13, 2022

Reviews that Republican candidate and former soccer star Herschel Walker paid for a former girlfriend’s abortion are the candidate’s newest headache in a good Senate race in Georgia.

Already a candidate plagued with issues — from home violence allegations to a parade of coverage gaffes — Walker may very well be notably susceptible to last-minute revelations. Scandals like these are often known as October surprises, on condition that they come up within the month forward of Election Day.

In line with David Greenberg — a professor of historical past, journalism, and media research at Rutgers College — October surprises have misplaced their efficiency by the years. In what’s maybe excellent news for Walker and his occasion, occasions that after could be described as an October shock barely keep within the public consciousness in any respect.

On this week’s episode of The Weeds — Vox’s podcast for politics and coverage discussions — Greenberg discusses the historical past of the time period and a number of the most notable October surprises in current reminiscence.

Under is an excerpt of our dialog, edited for size and readability.

Jonquilyn Hill

What precisely is an October shock?

David Greenberg

Initially, it meant a kind of calculated shock that was intentionally launched or made public in October, shortly earlier than the election, with the intention to affect the end result of the election. There may be the additional thought that this was one thing performed by the rival marketing campaign, possibly by the media, however actually that there was a kind of deliberateness to it.

These days, I feel we’ve modified the that means in order that it means something that comes up in October that’s a shock. Every kind of issues now get thrown into this basket and it’s misplaced just a little little bit of that unique concept. The financial system takes a flip for the more severe. There’s a very good jobs report, a foul job report, a very good inventory market day, dangerous day. These issues aren’t actually what we meant by “October surprises.”

Jonquilyn Hill

The place did the time period originate?

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David Greenberg

The time period goes again to the 1980 marketing campaign. Jimmy Carter was the incumbent however was working a sort of uphill reelection battle towards Ronald Reagan. And one of many many issues bogging Carter down was all these American hostages who had been taken in Iran in the course of the revolution and the overthrow of the Shah. It was truly a Reagan marketing campaign official, Invoice Casey, who implied there was going to be an October shock: that Carter was in some way going to get the hostages freed in October with the intention to revive his sagging fortunes.

Jonquilyn Hill

Do we all know if that made a distinction in that election in any respect, or will we not have the info to inform?

David Greenberg

You recognize, Reagan gained by so much in 1980, and there have been many the reason why individuals have been sad with Carter. I feel most analysts would agree that his poor international coverage general, together with his lack of ability to get these hostages out over such a protracted time frame, actually damage him.

Whether or not the expectation after which the dashed hope of an October launch was a selected issue, I feel is much less vital. Had he been capable of get them launched, I suppose it’s conceivable he might need seen a special consequence. 1980 was a reasonably large victory, if not an precise landslide for Reagan. There’s many causes. And one factor like that’s often not going to show the end result round.

Now, within the final a number of election cycles, most of them on the presidential degree have been extraordinarily shut. We’ve additionally had loads of extraordinarily shut state and native races. And so when it’s extraordinarily shut, it’s clearly a lot simpler to suppose that one occasion might make the distinction.

In all probability listeners are occupied with 2016.

Jonquilyn Hill

Entry Hollywood.

David Greenberg

Yeah. You had two occasions that actually have been referred to as October shock. First, the Entry Hollywood tape of Donald Trump on video saying these crude issues about ladies. Lots of people actually thought that’s going to complete him off. He was behind within the polls already, however they thought that was actually the dying knell. In order that bought labeled an October shock.

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Then a few weeks later, these infamous emails. That’s one the place I feel there’s a believable case that it did make the distinction, as a result of clearly, had the election of 2016 been held in mid-October, Hillary [Clinton] would have gained. I imply, all of the proof suggests she was up within the polls as a lot as 11 factors. There have been individuals who within the final couple of weeks of the marketing campaign modified their thoughts and moved from the Hillary camp to leaning Trump.

Jonquilyn Hill

Does the truth that this stuff occur they usually sort of don’t keep within the consciousness that lengthy say something about the place we’re in our politics?

David Greenberg

I feel it does. And I feel in a means, there’s [a few] barely completely different phenomena that coincide.

One is the sense of a brief consideration span and a fast information cycle in order that issues don’t linger and we simply transfer on to new points. I keep in mind greater than a 12 months in the past the Biden administration’s troubles over the Afghanistan withdrawal. On the time, individuals spoke very earnestly in regards to the severe political penalties and the electoral penalties that this is able to have.

So there’s the sense of time. However then there’s additionally sort of that tremendous Teflon high quality that Trump particularly appears to have. And I feel with Trump, individuals didn’t count on exemplary ethical or moral conduct from him.

After which, after all, the opposite factor is we’ve turn into so polarized and partisan that numerous individuals do truly discover a few of these issues objectionable, however they discover the opposite occasion so insupportable that they’re keen to forgive an incredible deal on their very own facet. And beneath these situations, being high-minded and quarreling with some flaws of your nominee appears shortsighted. So should you actually suppose every part is at stake and we can’t let the opposite occasion take the White Home, effectively, it stands to cause that you’d forgive so much.

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Jonquilyn Hill

Do you see a sample with the scandals that rise to the highest? I’m pondering of Iran again in 1980, however now this with Herschel Walker and abortion.

David Greenberg

There tends to be a correlation between the problems that actually blow up and points which can be already vital for different causes. If we had not simply seen Roe v. Wade overturned early this summer season then possibly this story about Walker wouldn’t be fairly as massive a deal.

When one thing is the No. 1 subject after which there’s a scandal or a bombshell that pertains to that topic, I feel it’s more likely to command our consideration than if it has to do with one thing that appears to be trivial or off-topic.

For extra, discover The Weeds on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.