The numbers for McCain are looking grimmer and grimmer. Yesterday's New York Times/CBS nationwide poll gave Obama 53%-McCain 39%. McCain only pulling 39 is just staggering to me. I'm pretty certain that this is the lowest a major-party candidate has pulled in the era of polling. I'm not sure how much lower he could go. Obama is ahead by 10 points in Virginia.
It raises the question: What if anything can save McCain? Three October Surprises come to mind.
1. Finding Osama.
What if they capture or kill Osama between now and election day? I think this could actually hurt McCain on two fronts. First, I think a lot of voters--especially independent voters--would be skeptical about the timing. Also, there could be a sense that "the war on terror is over". A sense that we don't need a president with foreign-policy expertise the way we did the day before.
2. The Empire Strikes Back
What if there is another 9/11 style terror attack in the US? It seems more unlikely than the above, but what if Al-queda manages to blow up Space Mountain or blows up a radiological bomb in the port of Long Island? Again, this could hurt McCain. People would blame the President, read GOP. Also, There would be the same skepticism about the timing. It might bring some independents back home, however.
3. The "I" Countries Strike Back
What if Israel attacks Iranian nuclear facilities before election day. Howard Lurie has a very interesting piecein today's Philadelphia Daily News (yes, I read the Daily News... it's the People Paper!). In it, he lays out 3 time periods when Isreal could strike: before the election, after the election but before inauguration day, or after inauguration day. He concludes that before the election would be the most likely time for them to strike and his logic is compelling. If they did attack, things could quickly get out of control.
Iran would most likely immediately retaliate against US forcese in Iraq. They would use their shi'a allies to launch terrorist attacks. They might attack US warships in the persian gulf and the strait of Hormuz. They might attack Iraqi and Saudi oil facilities from the air. They might even invade southern Iraq with ground forces.
This might bring people back to McCain. Obama would be on the spot to look and act as if he could handle this situation. My bet is he would succeed. If he comes across as presidential, that might aleviate some concerns that voters hold about his experience issues. If he doesn't perform well, McCain could see a significant change. Hopefully, we'll never find out.