a news event with the potential to influence the outcome of an election, particularly one for the U.S. presidency. The reference to the month of October is due to the fact that the Tuesday after the first Monday in November is the date for US national elections (as well as many state and local elections). Consequently, politically significant events that take place in late October have greater potential for influencing voters.
The original October Surprise was the alleged plot to influence the outcome of the 1980 United States presidential election between incumbent President Jimmy Carter and opponent Ronald Reagan. One of the leading, national issues of that election year was the release of 52 US citizens being held hostage in Iran since November 4, 1979. Reagan won the election, and just twenty minutes after his inaugural address, the Islamic Republic of Iran announced the release of these US hostages. The timing gave rise to allegations that representatives of Reagan’s presidential campaign had conspired with Iran to delay the hostages’ release until after the election; thereby preventing President Carter from pulling off an “October surprise”.
In the news… Is Netanyahu planning an October surprise? (9/5/12)