Could Autumn Surprise Jolt Election?
An election-eve terrorist strike. A tanking stock market. A stunner of a jobs report. An unscripted moment.
Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney are on guard for anything that could push the presidential race from its taut course. An autumn surprise is just that, making most late-breaking events tough to plan for.
"You can't overestimate how much the campaigns are sort of on autopilot. In some ways they're incredibly brain dead. They've got a plan and they are now going to execute it," said Carter Eskew, a top strategist for Democrat Al Gore during a 2000 campaign that came up just short. "They basically trust that they have the system in place to deal with a crisis as best they can."
With less than two weeks of campaigning left, the views of many voters are hardened, judging by many public opinion surveys. The unprecedented millions of dollars in advertising from every corner can drown out or diminish the off-script stuff. There also are doubts about whether any surprise will carry much potency now that millions of Americans cast their ballots days or weeks before Election Day.
Not that either man's supporters aren't trying to knock the other side off course.
In the nine states both campaigns are fiercely contesting, the outcome will be decided at the margins.
Late twists in a campaign take on many forms: a verbal stumble that reinforces an existing weak point, a brewing scandal where the murkiness can be as bad as the allegation, a foreign policy crisis few saw coming. Old scars can face fresh examination. Purported bombshells can turn out to be duds.
So the candidates need to be ready for anything.
A look at some possible events that could shake up the race.
By BRIAN BAKST, AP
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