ChrisWeigant.com

Will Trump's October Surprise Work?

[ Posted Monday, October 29th, 2018 – 16:44 PDT ]

President Donald Trump began his rollout of his "October Surprise" today, as the Pentagon announced it would be sending over 5,000 troops to the southern U.S. border. This was five times higher than anyone had expected, and would add to the 2,000 troops already there. Tomorrow, Trump is scheduled to give a major speech on immigration, although the main focus of it is already clear: the caravan of Central American refugees currently walking towards the border in Mexico. Trump has made the caravan -- or, more properly, fear of the caravan -- a central part of his closing argument in the campaign for the upcoming midterm elections. So this has to be seen as Trump's version of an October Surprise. The big question is whether it'll work or not, politically.

Now, the history of the October Surprise label shows a mix of events that were external and beyond any American politician's control (real surprises, in other words) and those that were carefully stage-managed to either break wide open (or, conversely, not bark in the night) at the end of October, right before an election happens. Planned surprises, one might call them.

Trump's newfound vigor towards immigrants is likely a mixture of both. Trump himself has been saying for months now that Republicans should focus their whole campaign on illegal immigrants, his border wall, and falsely accusing Democrats of being the "open border party." Hey, it worked for him once, why shouldn't it work again? So Trump has been focusing on it and urging other GOP candidates to do the same, for quite some time now.

Then the caravan formed up in Central American and began painfully walking north on a journey of over 1,500 miles, much of it in extremely hostile terrain. How many American citizens could even survive such an arduous journey? But the timing of this caravan played directly into Trump's hands. Ever since it began, Trump has been calling it an "invasion" and a national security threat. He's darkly warned -- without a tiny shred of evidence -- that "Middle Easterners" (i.e., terrorists) and gang members and other assorted criminals were part of the caravan. He turned his fearmongering knob up to eleven, and Fox News gleefully fell into step right behind.

It's really pointless to argue how planned Trump's actions this week ultimately were. Maybe he planned something of the sort before the caravan existed, or maybe he just came up with the idea last week. Either way, the political ramifications remain unchanged, really, so there's not a lot of point in a deep dive into the planning and motivations behind it.

It's also rather pointless to argue what the ultimate outcome will be. Trump's speech is reported to be a grand announcement that he's "closing the border," which is factually inaccurate but sure makes for a dandy political slogan. What he actually may announce is that America will stop accepting any sort of applications for refugee status along the border itself. This would mean there would no longer be any legal way for such persons to cross.

Right now, a refugee who arrives at the border doesn't automatically cross illegally, despite what the news media say. Many of them wait in line and then enter a border crossing station and present themselves as refugees. They are then processed by the system, in various ways (which used to include automatically separating children from their parents). But if Trump announces a big change in policy, the door will slam shut and no applications for refugees will be admitted at the border stations. This will mean anyone who still wants to make the attempt will have to cross the border illegally.

All of this may be deemed an illegal policy, though. But then again, maybe not. It certainly will be challenged in court, but even if a federal judge or two issues an injunction halting Trump's new policy, Trump may eventually win if he appeals it all the way to his newly-unbalanced Supreme Court. His Muslim travel ban eventually was declared legal, after all, even if the final version was different than what he originally set out to do.

But all of this is really beside the point. No matter what ultimately happens inside the judicial system, it will not happen by Election Day, that's pretty much guaranteed. Either way the judicial chips eventually fall, though, it will not detract from the political value of Trump's new policy at all. Trump will be giving his speech only one week before everyone votes. Such is the nature of an October Surprise.

So what will the political effects be? That is truly the only pertinent question, right now. The rest of it will play out after the election is over, one way or another. But how will it influence the vote?

Trump has been banking for a while on the idea that ginning up the fear of brown-skinned immigrants will work out for his party exactly how it worked out for him in 2016. It was a winning issue for him then, he thinks, so why shouldn't it work the same magic now? He may be right about this, but then again he may not.

The issue certainly animates his base voters. That is undeniable on the face of it. Before about a month ago, Republican voter apathy was a real and tangible problem for the party. If GOP voters decided to just stay home and not vote, the blue wave would happen, many Republican operators darkly warned. But then there was the Brett Kavanaugh hearings to get everyone fired up, and since then the Republican base may not have caught up to the Democrats on the enthusiasm scale, but they certainly have closed the gap considerably. So this brings up the question of whether a big "Close the border!" finish will fend off that Democratic tsunami or not. That's going to be tough to accurately measure, because causality is always hard to pin down in terms of who voted, how they voted, and why. But fanning the anti-immigrant flames right before the vote certainly could help Republican turnout, that's pretty clear.

The question is what will happen on the other side? Will Trump stoking the nativist furnace actually wind up helping Democrats out in the end? Or will it deflate the motivations of Democratic voters? At a guess, I'd pick the former over the latter. Democrats are already about as engaged as can be imagined, and this is just another reason to get to the voting booth -- come Hell or high water -- next Tuesday. The anti-Trump fervor will also be stoked by Trump's new policy, and it may especially be pronounced among Latino voters. Some Democratic operatives have been privately worrying about Latino voter turnout, and this could be a game-changer in this regard. This could be enough to tip the balance in states like Nevada, Arizona, and even Texas. Once again, Trump will be demonizing people who look like them to score cheap political points, which might wind up being a big motivating factor among a demographic whose turnout rates almost always disappoint the Democratic Party.

The final big question is how this will play in the 'burbs. The timing of Trump's October Surprise speech is already dubious, since it will come immediately in the aftermath of the worst violence against Jews in American history. The Pittsburgh shooting at a synagogue was motivated in great part by the shooter's hatred for a Jewish group that aids refugees who want to come to America. For Trump to ignore the optics of this situation to make a big speech stoking hatred and fear of immigrants may be too jarring for many voters who still might be on the fence about which particular congressional candidate to vote for.

While Trump's speech will be heavily scripted and read off a TelePrompTer (in wooden tones, as usual), Trump will almost immediately let everyone know what he really thinks, in no uncertain terms, in the rallies which will follow. The soundbites that will appear on the news will likely not come from his formal speech, but from him tossing red meat to his base, in other words. How is all of this going to be read by the soccer moms out in the suburbs? Trump will be giving free rein to his worst impulses, because he firmly believes this is the recipe for electoral success. But Republicans are already in trouble in those suburban districts, and this could exacerbate their problem. Trump's ugly values are now the Republican Party's values, and that's the choice voters will be faced with, no matter whose name is actually on the ballot. It's worth noting that Trump's initial family separation policy went over like a lead balloon with this particular demographic. Cries of "Close the border!" aren't likely to go down any better.

As with every single election, the 2018 midterms will hinge on turnout. Trump is doubling down on stoking the fears and anger of his base, in the hopes that this will motivate his base voters to get to the polls. If enough of them do, he thinks he can avoid a rout. He may well be at least partially right. Riling up his base might help the GOP in statewide Senate and governors' races, in specific states. But he might also be completely ceding the House of Representatives to the Democrats, because the battlegrounds this time around are suburban districts where voters aren't quite as mean-spirited as the base Trump voters, even if they do normally vote Republican. Trump's October Surprise might backfire here, which could hand the House to Nancy Pelosi next week. Trump's new policy could also serve Democrats well in statewide races where large percentages of the electorate are Latino voters. Militarizing the border (further than it already has been) is not exactly a winning issue everywhere, in other words.

Again, even after the fact, it'll be hard to tease out exactly what the effects of Trump's late-breaking new border and immigration policies will have on the outcome next Tuesday. Such, in fact, is the nature of any October Surprise. And, as always, the victors may be the ones whose explanation is eventually adopted by the media and by the public. Will Trump's October Surprise be the tactic that works for him again? Or will it backfire in his face and cause even deeper losses than might have happened?

In a week and a day, we'll all be sorting through the answers to these questions, that's about all that can be said for certain right now.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

32 Comments on “Will Trump's October Surprise Work?”

  1. [1] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    "That's going to be tough to accurately measure, because causality is always hard to pin down in terms of who voted, how they voted and why."

    So it will be difficult to know why the 50% or so of eligible voters that will not vote in 2018 will not vote.

    Is it possible that many are fed up with both CMPs being controlled by Big Money?

    Can that be a question we explore after the election, at the beginning of the next election cycle?

    One way to find out how many citizens that did not vote and how many that held their nose and voted for the not as bad big Money Democrats in 2018 are fed up with Big Money influencing both CMPs is to inform citizens aboot One Demand and see if they respond.

    It is ignoring a significant part of reality to say that turnout is important in elections when 50% or more of citizens are turned off.

    Why should we be listening to the "victor"?

    If the victor is only getting the support of aboot half of those that vote that is just 25% of eligible voters.

    The media or the public does not have to accept the explanation of the victor or the other 25%.

    The media could pay attention to the other 50% any time they want.

    Many in this other 50% has already rejected the explanation from the 25%-ers from 2016 or they would be participating in 2018.

    The explanations from the 25%-ers have not changed and will be recycled again after this election.

    Are we really going to do this again in 2020?

    Let's try something different.

  2. [2] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Anybody else watching the PBS Frontline documentary about what's wrong with Facebook? OMG! The problems are much worse than I feared. Part 2 runs tommorow evening.

  3. [3] 
    Paula wrote:

    My guess is this October surprise will fall with a whimpering thud. It's stupid. It's a solution in search of a problem. The caravan-scare is idiotic and offensive.

    Yes, America's morons may be cowering in fear of the leprosy-stricken-caravan, or ginned up in hostility, but I think America's sane people see this as a dumb and obvious stunt.

    It won't deflect from the horror of the Pittsburgh slaughter or the bomb scares. And, as you speculated, it may encourage greater Latino turnout. It MAY encourage more Suburban GOP women to vote blue - these are women already disgusted with Tiny who may use this as one-more-reason, and maybe tell their friends! It is NOT going to discourage other Dems.

  4. [4] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Why just the army? How about sending a carrier battle group? Some B2 bombers and any F-22s that survived the hurricane! Let's not go in underarmed....or half-cocked. Let us march south towards Mexico fully and bigly cocked. Some of the the deperados heading north have.....uhhh....stuff.

    Sarcasm switch off. Kick, it arrive yesterday from Amazon, free 2 day shipping. Plugs right into a USB port.

  5. [5] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Trump's military can't actually do any policing. Posse Comitatus...

    Sacasm on...

    which Trump thinks is a form of semi-effective birth control. The troops will be in a support role. Hurry up and waiter. Never in the course of history have so many over supported so few.

    This is not an Oct. Surprise. It is an October What the Fuck?!! More than one soldier will mutter that. ...even if the weather is nice. John Oliver must be beaming.

  6. [6] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    isn't it possible that trump's october surprise is pie? if so, it's logical to conclude that the main reason people aren't voting is that they are hungry and there is no pie at the polls. one way to find out for sure is to inform readers of their ability to vote for pie, so hunger no longer gets in the way of their ability to vote.

    80% of americans like pie, yet politicians and the media are so focused on canned responses involving whipped cream that they neglect to inform registered voters about their option to cast a vote for pie. if only 10% of hungry non-voters wrote in pie, or brought pie to the voting booth so that others could see the crumbs, it could cause a groundswell of voting to bring pie into every household. then the hungry 20% would flock to the booths and candidates would have no choice but to support pie or lose votes.

    yet every time i bring this up, you 'let them eat cake' dems come up with the same canned whipped cream responses. are we really going down the hungry road yet again just because no one will admit the emperor is wearing a whipped cream bikini?

    JL

  7. [7] 
    John M wrote:

    [4] TheStig

    "Why just the army? How about sending a carrier battle group? Some B2 bombers and any F-22s that survived the hurricane! Let's not go in underarmed....or half-cocked. Let us march south towards Mexico fully and bigly cocked. Some of the the deperados heading north have.....uhhh....stuff."

    Ann Coulter already suggested the U.S. invade Mexico on Laura Ingraham's FOX show a couple days ago to stop them.

  8. [8] 
    John M wrote:

    [3] Paula

    "My guess is this October surprise will fall with a whimpering thud. It's stupid. It's a solution in search of a problem. The caravan-scare is idiotic and offensive."

    Trump isn't done yet. His latest move is to end birthright citizenship through an executive order. I guess someone has convinced him that a constitutional fight before the Supreme Court over it would be great optics.

  9. [9] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris
    1

    Blah, blah, blah.

  10. [10] 
    Paula wrote:

    [8] John M: Yep, now threatening citizenship - gawd he's a blister!

    But that story will spend the day competing with the "no one in Pittsburgh wants Tiny to come and no one will go with him" story.

    Sigh.

  11. [11] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    if they don't like him in pittsburgh, maybe he'll rethink paris.

  12. [12] 
    Kick wrote:

    TS
    2

    Anybody else watching the PBS Frontline documentary about what's wrong with Facebook?

    I taped it yesterday to watch later. Anyone interested can read this story in the Washington Post and watch an excerpt there:

    https://tinyurl.com/yag9vn5t

    Continued...

  13. [13] 
    Kick wrote:

    OMG! The problems are much worse than I feared. Part 2 runs tommorow evening.

    Hope Paula sees it since we've discussed this Facebook issue a few times and how it had legs and still more shoes to drop.

    http://www.chrisweigant.com/2018/03/19/dare-trump-to-face-the-press/#comment-117762

    I'll report back after I see it. Be back later. :)

  14. [14] 
    Paula wrote:

    [13] Kick: I haven't watched the documentary TS refers tp but I have seen a lot of reporting about FB and it's active assistance in dirty deeds like the campaigns against democracy in Ukraine and in support of Tiny/against HRC. FB did a lot of stonewalling initially but all sorts of stuff is coming out and it ain't pretty.

    FB, Twitter, Instagram etc. are all struggling with how to deal with the onslaught of misinformation & disinformation emanating from multiple places. They make more money by allowing anyone to say anything but, under fire, are having to police their platform's activity. Naturally, since most of the junk comes from the right, Tiny and conservative media scream about being "censored".

  15. [15] 
    Paula wrote:

    So apparently the NEXT shot at an October surprise is a story claiming some woman is accusing Mueller of sexual something or other. Apparently the story has been shopped around - several journalists on Twitter are saying they received info about it and smelled rats and passed and Mueller's team reported it to DOJ.

    It appears to be a pretty obvious hit-job.

  16. [16] 
    Paula wrote:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/10/special-counsel-refers-scheme-targeting-mueller-to-fbi/574411/?utm_term=2018-10-30T17%3A14%3A35&utm_campaign=atlantic-politics-and-policy&utm_content=edit-promo&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter

    An alleged scheme to pay off women to fabricate sexual-assault allegations against Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been referred to the FBI for further investigation, a spokesman for the special counsel’s office told The Atlantic. “When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the Special Counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation,” the spokesman, Peter Carr, told me in an email on Tuesday.

  17. [17] 
    Kick wrote:

    Paula
    3

    My guess is this October surprise will fall with a whimpering thud. It's stupid. It's a solution in search of a problem. The caravan-scare is idiotic and offensive.

    Could you stomach a politician who thought you were that stupid!? Rhetorical question, of course.

    Yes, America's morons may be cowering in fear of the leprosy-stricken-caravan, or ginned up in hostility, but I think America's sane people see this as a dumb and obvious stunt.

    But, but, but... smallpox! ;)

    The sycophants who believe -- with no evidence whatsoever -- that Hillary Clinton ran a pedophile ring out of the nonexistent basement of a pizza joint in DC are positive, I tell you, positive -- with a myriad of evidence proving exactly the opposite -- that the Trump Trash arrested for the attempted assassination of multiple Democrats is simply a "false flag."

    A con artist like Trump knows gullible when he see's it, and if you're going to run a scam, you find and exploit the stupid... who aren't aware that smallpox was eradicated in the 1980s... because science!

  18. [18] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    God, this is hilarious.

    He got Mattis to deploy troops into a tight Posse Comitatus box. The Commander of Army Northern Command officially announced the task list, and none of the jobs require guns.

    Trump is an uninvited guest at funerals of victims who (this is Gillum's line) may not think Trump is a racist, but it's certain that racists think he's a racist.

    Today, as John M and Paula note above, he told Axios that he's going to personally override the 14th's "All persons born ... in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States..."

    Today, as Paula reported, it appears some indiscreet oppo klutzes are being busted for trying to frame Mueller.

    I'm not sure the last one is going to be hung on Trump, but certainly with the others, he is doing this all for himself, first and foremost.

    There aren't any more votes for Republican candidates to be mined out of this all-in for white-brown fear issues. He told us last week: he's a nationalist. Trump's not a Republican; he never was.

    We are like beachcombers. We walk the shore, wondering what the tide will bring tomorrow.

  19. [19] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    Oh, and Lindsey Graham is offering to introduce a bill to drive a stake right through the heart of that damned 14th Amendment.

    Maybe he's running for Attorney General. What if he's a double agent? I mean, he wants the job because he will take the S.C. investigation back up to him, and can protect it when the time comes.

    I don't know if he believes in karma, or if he believes in heaven. But if he does either way, he wouldn't want to do anything that would cause him to earn John McCain's wrath.

  20. [20] 
    Kick wrote:

    TS
    4

    Why just the army? How about sending a carrier battle group? Some B2 bombers and any F-22s that survived the hurricane!

    Tanks, dang it -- M1's, the really big guns
    Gunner, sabot, tank, identify, up, fire!

    Let's not go in underarmed....or half-cocked. Let us march south towards Mexico fully and bigly cocked.

    Bigly cocked, sir!? Well, okay then. I know the way: Straight through Texasssssss.

    Some of the the deperados heading north have.....uhhh....stuff.

    Bad stuff, catchy stuff... uhhh… super con-traindicated and con-tagious stuffy stuff.

    Remember that guy who died in Texasssssss from Ebola and the righties flipping out and using it to scare their gullible sycophants and blaming Obama for sending the Army to help eradicate it while they freaked out and blamed Obama and accused him of putting the Army in harm's way because there was an outbreak of Ebola they were sent to eradicate? Then after the midterms you didn't hear much about Ebola again... because fearmongering no longer required and/or necessary. Yes, sir. I remember it well because I was at ground zero.

    Fast forward four years and several scares ago, and this time they're still fearmongering and still sending in the Army... except for no real reason like Ebola... and no one is talking about the president putting the Army in harm's way of catchy stuff and disease like last time because fake and fabricated bullshit and the cult of gullible personality that isn't able to put two plus two together and see how they're being played for morons... again and again ad nauseam.

    Sarcasm switch off. Kick, it arrive yesterday from Amazon, free 2 day shipping. Plugs right into a USB port.

    Oh, very nice, sir... very nice.
    * What color is yours?
    * How bigly is it?
    * Does it glow in the dark? ;)

  21. [21] 
    Paula wrote:
  22. [22] 
    Kick wrote:

    John M: Trump isn't done yet. His latest move is to end birthright citizenship through an executive order.

    Paula: But that story will spend the day competing with the "no one in Pittsburgh wants Tiny to come and no one will go with him" story.

    I heard he was being accompanied by his anchor baby daughter and taking his immigrant wife... not the first one, the current one -- the one who worked illegally in this country on only a "do as we say not as we do" tourist visa. Perhaps she could convince the two chain migration in-laws to "go with."

    Hmmmmmmm. Do any of those Trumps have two parents born in America and are therefore not the direct spawn of an immigrant?

    Donald a.k.a. "Tiny"...…...….. one
    Melania a.k.a. "Melanie"....... zero
    Ivana Marie a.k.a. "Ivanka"... one
    Donald a.k.a. "Junior"...…..... one
    Eric a.k.a. "the stupid one".... one
    Barron...…………………….…….. one
    Tiffany...……………..….………... two... wait, what!

    Okay, Tiffany can stay, but the rest of them are going to have to go... Daddy's amending the Constitution via Executive Order. *laughs* Idiot.

  23. [23] 
    Kick wrote:

    JL
    11

    if they don't like him in pittsburgh, maybe he'll rethink paris.

  24. [24] 
    Kick wrote:

    JL
    11

    if they don't like him in pittsburgh, maybe he'll rethink paris.

    You misspelled "pies." Maybe he'll rethink pies! ;)

  25. [25] 
    Kick wrote:

    Paula
    14

    Yes, that's it. Like we discussed earlier, they knew and lied and more shoes to drop... exactly. Had Manafort gone to trial versus flipping and copping a guilty plea to every single charge in Mueller's indictments, some of those shoes would have been wedged into his backside, and he knew it.

  26. [26] 
    Kick wrote:

    Paula
    15

    Oh, goodness... another Trump felony... bribing women to besmirch the character of Robert Swan Mueller III. Big mistake. Huge mistake. Gargantuan mistake and reprehensible.

    Fire up the next grand jury. It's nearing Roger Stone's time in the barrel... Mueller Time! Cheers and bottoms up. :)

  27. [27] 
    Kick wrote:

    LB
    18

    He got Mattis to deploy troops into a tight Posse Comitatus box. The Commander of Army Northern Command officially announced the task list, and none of the jobs require guns.

    But my tank is fired up and ready to go, and we have directions to the border of Texassssss! ;)

  28. [28] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Kick-20

    I can imagine one of those M-1s has COVFEVE! painted on the turret, or maybe the tube.

  29. [29] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    [21] Wonkette covers the Mueller smear

    Paula is right to provide a deep, weedy description of what's underneath one of this week's moronic acts of desperate scatter-shot.

    In that spirit, here's reporting on the presser of the General whose troops are going to the Rio Grande or the Sonoran Desert for Thanksgiving dinner in their mess tents.

    https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2018/10/29/trump-orders-5200-active-duty-troops-to-us-mexico-border/

  30. [30] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    [27] - But my tank is fired up and ready to go, and we have directions to the border of Texassssss! ;)

    The place is going to be crawling with JAG lawyers. They'd be all paperwork and wanting to scan your ID.

    Texas has a army or militia or, in any case a bunch of white guys with sun glasses. They were deployed during Jade Helm to make sure it wasn't the coup it looked it was going to be.

    Maybe you can sell your tank to those guys.

  31. [31] 
    Kick wrote:

    Paula
    21

    As Wonkette reveals, the guy paying the women to lie is Jack Burkman.

    There is a tweet for everything! I can't stop laughing:

    Jack Burkman
    @Jack_Burkman

    The Roy Moore saga looks a lot like Salem 1692: Is Goodie Proctor a witch? I can produce 3 women to say anything bout anybody. Is that where we are?

    6:06 AM - 13 Nov 2017

    https://twitter.com/Jack_Burkman/status/930074411310440448

    This tweet is located directly below one of his tweets regarding the Seth Rich conspiracy theory bullshit he also created.

    The above tweet along with Jack's newer tweet containing an admission that the woman is fictional -- you can't make this shit up, but Jack tries so hard -- have been archived for posterity.

    It takes a special kind of stupid to provide evidence against yourself to the FBI, but we are dealing with GOP sycophants after all. Sheesh! *shakes head*

  32. [32] 
    Kick wrote:

    TS
    28

    I can imagine one of those M-1s has COVFEVE! painted on the turret, or maybe the tube.

    The sabot rounds.

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