The term "October surprise" usually connotes some sort of foul play, such as the sudden emergence of a political scandal, just in time to influence the outcome of an election. Since 9/11, however, al-Qaida has been frequently said to be have been actively trying to hatch plots to sway our electoral contests. Likewise, those who sound such alarms are often accused of spreading fear to influence the outcomes of a given political contest.
Reports like the one that appeared in The Telegraph in the run-up to the 2008 election make the case that terror groups like al-Qaida pay special attention to when America heads to the polls.
"The approach of the US election has fuelled fears that al Qaeda or its allies," the Telegraph reported two years ago, "including the increasingly active Haqqani network, will seek a headline-grabbing strike against a symbolic American target such as an overseas embassy."
Now, with the president himself confirming the apparent plot to harm Americans, the specter of a new October surprise is being raised.
At The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza said he believed the plot would have little influence on the elections:
... terror issues will be more on the minds of voters tomorrow than anyone assumed when today began. And, anything that captures national attention this close to an election is worth noting and fits neatly into the idea of an "October Surprise," a last-minute event that changes the course of an election.
With that said, there's little evidence that terrorism will become a voting issue for a public heavily focused on the economy and other domestic concerns.
On Twitter, The National Review's Jonah Goldberg didn't go so far as to term today's revelation an October surprise, but he did offer a comparison.
NY Bomb-plot story would be called "October Surprise" by Dems if Bush was still in office.
Of course, no one loves conspiracy more than talk show host Alex Jones and his cohorts at Prison Planet. In an Oct. 4 article, Paul Joseph Watson argued that the increased European terror threat level was but a weak attempt at an October surprise.
"Manipulating voters by threatening terror worked for the Republicans in 2004," Watson wrote, "but the Democrats might have to go a step further if they hope to use it as a deciding factor in 2010."
But with terrorist threats remaining something of a constant in American life since a gang of al-Qaida-trained militants led by Ramzi Yousef set off the first World Trade Center bomb in 1993, telling whether a particular incident should be linked to the nation's elections is perhaps not such a clear-cut matter.
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