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What will be the 'October Surprise' in this year's presidential election?
FILE PHOTO: Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in 1972.
October 3rd, 2012
05:08 PM ET

What will be the 'October Surprise' in this year's presidential election?

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.

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Filed under: 2012 Election
What can Mitt Romney do to win the first debate?
October 2nd, 2012
03:29 PM ET

What can Mitt Romney do to win the first debate?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

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.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Mitt Romney
What does it mean for Mitt Romney if he's less popular than George W. Bush ?
October 1st, 2012
04:53 PM ET

What does it mean for Mitt Romney if he's less popular than George W. Bush ?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

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 ?

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.

How is Romney-Obama like Reagan-Carter?
September 24th, 2012
03:16 PM ET

How is Romney-Obama like Reagan-Carter?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

2012 is no 1980, and Mitt Romney is no Ronald Reagan.

At least that's the message coming from many Republicans to their party's presidential candidate.

Politico reports that comparisons to the 1980 race - when President Jimmy Carter lost to Reagan in a landslide - just don't hold up.

One Reagan biographer calls the comparison a "stretch" and says Romney needs to do a lot more at this point to win than Reagan did.

For starters, President Barack Obama remains personally popular among Americans despite a grim economy. Obama's approval is at around 50%, compared with 37% for Carter at this point in 1980.

Although Reagan trailed Carter in some polls - kind of like Romney - his unfavorable ratings weren't increasing. Romney just isn't connecting with voters like Reagan did.

What's more, Reagan was the overwhelming favorite of the Republican base; compare that to Romney: Many conservatives have never warmed up to him.

Another big difference between 1980 and today is the electoral map. Reagan ultimately carried one in four Democrats in that election. It's hard to imagine Romney ever pulling that off in today's highly polarized electorate.

Also, 32 years ago there were gas shortages and double-digit inflation and double-digit interest rates - or stagflation.

Nonetheless, one top Romney adviser says the 1980 race shows there's no need to panic if Romney is down in the polls at this point.

Plus it's not the first time Obama - a weakened, liberal incumbent with a troubled economy and problems in the Middle East - has been compared to Carter.

Here’s my question to you: How is Romney-Obama like Reagan-Carter?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

How would you change the way we hold elections?
September 24th, 2012
03:15 PM ET

How would you change the way we hold elections?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Election Day is six weeks from tomorrow, but tens of millions of Americans will actually cast their ballot before November 6.

Early voting has already started - and by the end of the month voters in 30 states will be able to cast absentee ballots or vote early in person.

This includes voters in key swing states like Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire.

It's expected that more than one-third of voters - or more than 40 million americans - will vote early this year. According to Politico, in 2008, early and absentee voters made up more than half of all voters in some states. In Colorado, 79% of people voted early.

And that's not lost on the candidates. In a tight race, early votes could make the difference in who wins the White House.

Both the Obama and Romney campaigns are working to get their voters out early. It's something the president's campaign did very well last time around..

Early voting has also changed the way candidates and their campaigns approach the elections - and us.

For starters, it's not worth saving up all those precious advertising dollars until the last days and weeks of the campaign if one in three voters will have voted by then.

Also, it increases pressure on the candidates since any gaffe or controversy that happens now could be the last thing early voters remember before they cast their ballot.

And with modern technology and all the problems that can happen at the polls on election day, it seems fair to ask why we even have an Election Day where people have to go to the polls.

Here’s my question to you: How would you change the way we hold elections?

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.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Election Process • Elections
How much will the presidential debates matter?
September 20th, 2012
03:30 PM ET

How much will the presidential debates matter?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As the clock ticks down to Election Day, the debates are the next big hurdle for the candidates.

Mitt Romney, who has had a rough few weeks to put it mildly, is under the most pressure to use the first presidential debate to turn this thing around. Some actually think October 3 is his last best chance.

Which is probably why he's been practicing a lot.

According to Politico, Romney recently did five mock debates in 48 hours. He's apparently told his advisers that it might be hard to win a debate against the president.

If you're on Mitt Romney's staff, the debates have got to make you at least a little nervous. Their candidate famously puts his foot in his mouth when he goes off prompter.

But the debates could also be a challenge for President Obama, who can give long-winded answers that sound more like a college lecture than a game plan for a second term. This is a man who once gave a 17-minute answer in a town hall meeting. The president can go on and on.

No surprise Team Obama was out lowering expectations this week, saying the president hasn't debated in four years, while Mitt Romney had lots of practice in the primaries.

We now know half the first debate in Denver will focus on the economy. Other topics will include health care, the role of government and governing. Pass the NoDoz.

Debates can be a defining moment for a presidential candidate, and October 3 will be huge.

Here’s my question to you: How much will the presidential debates matter?

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.

What does Mitt Romney have to do to right the ship?
September 19th, 2012
02:51 PM ET

What does Mitt Romney have to do to right the ship?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Mitt Romney's latest unforced error has a lot of Republicans worried that his, and by extension, their, chances of winning this election are slipping away.

As Politico puts it, "If political campaigns have nine lives, nervous Republicans feel Romney has used up at least eight."

The latest gaffe comes courtesy of Romney's comments to a group of wealthy Republican donors in May when he said the 47% of Americans who support President Obama no matter what depend on the government for handouts and "believe they are victims."

The leaked video could damage Romney's support among some Republican voters like seniors or members of the military, not to mention Independents.

Which is why some Republicans, including Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, are distancing themselves from Romney's remarks.

All this comes after Romney's bungled and highly political response to the Middle East riots last week.

In her Wall Street Journal column, former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan says the Romney campaign is incompetent:

"It's not big, it's not brave, it's not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It's always been too small for the moment ... an intervention is in order. 'Mitt: this isn't working.'"

Noonan writes that Romney, who's not good at news conferences, should stick to speeches and they "have to be big."

She says he should surround himself with a posse of top Republicans every day: people like Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie to show he's not in this alone.

Here’s my question to you: What does Mitt Romney have to do to right the ship?

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.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Mitt Romney
Did Mitt Romney kill his own chances of becoming president with his reaction to the violence in Egypt and Libya?
September 13th, 2012
03:55 PM ET

Did Mitt Romney kill his own chances of becoming president with his reaction to the violence in Egypt and Libya?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Mitt Romney may have done himself in.

At the very least, the Republican candidate for president likely damaged his chances of being elected by the way he reacted to the violence in Egypt and Libya.

Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast suggests Romney's response makes him "unfit" for the responsibility of running the country.

Sullivan lays out the reasons why he thinks Romney should be disqualified from being president.

Including Romney's knee-jerk judgments, based on ideology not reality, his inability to back down when he said something wrong and his argument that President Obama sympathized with the murderers of America's ambassador to Libya.

Criticizing America's Commander-in-Chief while U.S. interests were still under attack, and Americans were dying, comes off as amateur and un-presidential, and might just be political suicide for Romney.

It's times like these when an unguarded comment can leave a lasting impression.

Compare Romney's response to how the 1980 Republican candidates for president reacted to the Iran hostage crisis under President Carter's watch.

As The Atlantic points out, when news broke that an effort to rescue the American hostages from the Tehran embassy failed Ronald Reagan said, "This is the time for us as a nation and a people to stand united."

George H.W. Bush went even further, saying he "unequivocally" supported carter and it wasn't a time to "try to go one-up politically."

Mitt Romney has been around long enough to know better.

Here’s my question to you: Did Mitt Romney kill his own chances of becoming president with his reaction to the violence in Egypt and Libya?

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.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Egypt • Libya • Middle East • Mitt Romney
How will the meltdown in the Middle East affect the U.S. presidential election?
A vehicle and the surrounding area are engulfed in flames after it was set on fire inside the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi last night.
September 12th, 2012
03:55 PM ET

How will the meltdown in the Middle East affect the U.S. presidential election?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The violence in Libya has suddenly yanked the spotlight off the economy and put it squarely on foreign policy as far as the U.S. presidential campaign is concerned.

Mitt Romney is slamming President Obama for his administration's response to angry mobs attacking U.S. diplomatic buildings in the Middle East.

Romney said that a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was like an apology, calling it "disgraceful to apologize for American values." Other Republicans are jumping in, blasting the president's "failed foreign policy of appeasement and apology."

The White House has disavowed the embassy statement, saying it did not approve the statement. In it, the Cairo embassy condemned "continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." This all goes back to a film produced in the United States that some Muslims found offensive.

Meanwhile the president condemned the attacks and said we must "unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence" that took the lives of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

The president's campaign said Romney is using the tragic events for political gain.

Others agree that Romney may have jumped the gun with his response.

Sen. John Kerry called Romney's remarks irresponsible, inexperienced and reckless. He said Romney was wrong to weigh in before all the facts are known.

As for voters, they tend to trust the president more on foreign policy. A CNN/ORC International Poll released this week showed President Barack Obama with a 54%-42% advantage over Romney.

Here’s my question to you: How will the meltdown in the Middle East affect the U.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.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Egypt • Libya • Middle East
How well do you feel you know Mitt Romney?
August 30th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

How well do you feel you know Mitt Romney?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It's been a long journey for Mitt Romney.

After six years of running, on Thursday night he will have what is probably his best chance to convince the American people that he should be their next president.

Although voters believe that Romney is best-equipped to deal with our ailing economy, the nation's top issue, it's been an uphill battle for him when it comes to connecting with these voters.

Over the past few days, other speakers - most effectively his wife, Ann - have made the case that Romney is much more than a rich and seemingly emotionless business executive with good hair.

But a lot of Americans still aren't convinced. They don't believe this guy with $200 million in the bank, offshore accounts and private tax returns understands what it's like to struggle.

With that in mind, Politico has some advice on how Romney can make the best use of his convention speech.

For starters, Romney should "go bold," which means not only pitching his own plans for fixing our problems but revealing some personal details he hasn't before.

That means things like his Mormon faith, his near-death experience in France or even what it was like to shut down a plant at Bain Capital.

Another suggestion is to "go light on the red meat." That's what Paul Ryan is for, as he so eloquently showed the nation Wednesday night.

Lastly, Romney could talk about his relationship with his father, George Romney. By giving some details - and showing some emotion - about what he learned from his father, Romney could show us a glimpse of the humanity that many have yet to see but that those close to him insist is there.

Here’s my question to you: How well do you feel you know Mitt Romney?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

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