By CNN's Jack Cafferty:
If it's October and it's a presidential election year, then it's just about time for a so-called “October surprise.”
That means any late-breaking event that can change the outcome of the race.
For example: Twelve days before the 1972 presidential election, Henry Kissinger made a major announcement about the Vietnam War, saying "We believe peace is at hand." This likely helped the incumbent Richard Nixon go on to win every state but Massachusetts.
The most famous October surprise was one that never came. In 1980, Republicans were worried that President Jimmy Carter would be boosted in his re-election bid by a rescue or release of the American hostages in Iran. That didn't happen - and Ronald Reagan won the election in a landslide.
More recently, Osama bin Laden released a video four days before the 2004 election. This reminder of the 9/11 attacks probably helped George W. Bush win a second term.
The year 2008 saw the financial meltdown, which technically started in September with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. It was a moment that boosted Barack Obama and highlighted John McCain's weakness on the economy.
So what about 2012?
That old video of an angry speech with racial overtones by then-candidate Obama which resurfaced last night could sway voters.
Or maybe the surprise is still lurking. Tonight's debate certainly has the potential to provide one.
There's always a chance for significant economic news - a jobs report, or the potential of the U.S. falling off that fiscal cliff.
And it's not hard to imagine some unexpected event in the Middle East. Take your pick: Iran, Israel, Syria, Libya.
Here’s my question to you: What will be the “October Surprise” in this year’s presidential election?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says Mitt Romney will kick President Barack Obama's butt in Wednesday night's debate.
Christie says he thinks Romney will turn the election "upside down" and that it will be a "brand-new race" after the showdown in Denver.
It’s no surprise that Romney's people stepped away from Christie's predictions pretty quickly. They're trying to lower expectations, which is how candidates usually approach debates.
But let's suppose Christie is right. What would it take for Romney to win the debate and change the storyline of this election?
With more than 50 million people expected to tune in, many think Wednesday night is Romney's last best chance to turn the race around. He's been practicing for this debate for months, on top of the practice he got in the almost two dozen primary debates.
But here's the challenge: Romney needs to come off as likable and authentic and show that he can connect with voters. We've been hearing this for months, and apparently it's a real challenge for him.
A piece in The Daily Beast suggests the only thing Romney can do to change the race in a meaningful way is to get specific about his ideas. So far neither Romney nor Obama has been willing to do that. The voters are simply left wondering
Others say Romney needs to make Obama come off as condescending, like when he told Hillary Clinton she was "likable enough" in a 2008 debate.
Romney has reportedly been practicing zingers to use against the president. And while powerful sound bites get lots of play in the days after a debate, it's questionable if a few good one-liners will be enough to catapult him into the White House.
Here’s my question to you: What can Mitt Romney do to win the first debate?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
Here's something that ought to give Camp Romney heartburn.
There's a poll out that finds the Republican candidate for president, Mitt Romney, is less popular than George W. Bush.
This Bloomberg News survey shows the former president with a favorability rating of 46% compared to 43% for Romney.
Bush gets an unfavorable rating of 49%. Romney gets 50%.
Bush's favorables are also higher than Joe Biden, Paul Ryan and the Republican Party.
It's well-known that Romney's favorability numbers are lower than President Obama's. Many believe Romney - the mega-rich businessman who once tied his family dog to the roof of his car - just can't connect with a lot of voters; but less popular than George W. Bush?
For starters Romney and his campaign have done everything in their power to try to make Americans forget about George W. Bush and his eight years in office. Romney avoids mentioning the former president's name, and Bush was nowhere to be seen at the GOP Convention in Tampa.
That's because for many Americans Bush's presidency brings back bad memories of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the dismal response of the federal government to Hurricane Katrina, the conditions that allowed the financial crisis of 2008 to happen and on and on.
Just a few months ago a CNN/ORC Poll found Bush to be the least popular living ex-president.
But somehow he still gets higher favorable ratings than the Republican who wants to be president.
Here’s my question to you: What does it mean for Mitt Romney if he's less popular than George W. Bush ?
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.
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