October surprises: last-minute election game changers
On Oct. 31, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson announced a halt to bombing in North Vietnam to take effect Nov. 1, a week before the election. Vice President Hubert Humphrey surged in the polls but still lost to Republican Richard Nixon. Here, Mr. Johnson (l.) meets with Gen. Creighton Abrams, the US military commander in Vietnam, in Washington on Oct. 29, 1968. The White House/AP/File
In 1972, as President Richard Nixon was running for reelection amid the Vietnam War, National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger announced Oct. 26, 'We believe peace is at hand.' The previous day, the North Vietnamese had agreed to terms with the US to end the war, which the South Vietnamese did not accept. The move stole support from Democrat challenger and antiwar candidate George McGovern, and Mr. Nixon won reelection. Here, Nixon (r.) is shown with Mr. Kissinger at the Western White House in San Clemente, Calif., on July 31, 1971. AP/File
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter was running for a second term against Ronald Reagan, and his campaign was overshadowed by the detention of 53 American hostages in Tehran who were seized the previous year by Islamic revolutionaries loyal to Ayatollah Khomeini. His 'October surprise' never happened; had the hostages had been freed, Mr. Carter might have surged in the polls with the goodwill of their release. Instead, Mr. Reagan won. Carter is seen here at a press conference in the White House in Washington on April 10, 1980. Dennis Cook/AP/File
One of 60 US hostages, blindfolded and with his hands bound, is displayed to the crowd outside the US Embassy in Tehran by Iranian hostage takers, Nov. 9, 1979. AP
Four days before the 1992 election, former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger (under President Ronald Reagan) was indicted on criminal charges stemming from the long-running Iran-contra affair. The scandal had erupted six years earlier with revelations that US profits from secret weapons sales to Iran had been diverted to arm the contra rebels fighting the Sandanista government in Nicaragua, contrary to Congress's directive. The Weinberger indictment by an independent counsel hardly came as a surprise – he'd already been previously indicted. But some say that reminding voters of the Reagan-Bush Iran-contra scandal did not exactly help George H.W. Bush's reelection chances. With Ross Perot reentering the presidential race, Mr. Bush lost to Democrat Bill Clinton. Pictured, a contra camp near the Nicaraguan border. Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
A reporter for a Maine television station broke a story, in the last days of the campaign, that presidential candidate George W. Bush, in 1976, had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. The Bush campaign called the scoop a 'sucker punch' but maintained the candidate had been transparent about his previous problem with drinking. He won the election. Here, Mr. Bush listens to a question at a press conference in Saluda, S.C., on Feb. 14, 2000. Andy Nelson/Staff/File
In October 2004, almost 380 tons of explosives were found to be missing from the Al Qa'qaa industrial complex in Iraq, something that Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry said was a failure of the Bush presidency and the Iraq war. President Bush maintained that the explosives may have been moved prior to the US invasion in 2003. In this Nov. 6, 2004, photo, US Marines of the 1st Division line up for a joined prayer at their base outside Fallujah, Iraq. Anja Niedringhaus/AP/File
Osama bin Laden speaks in a broadcast by Arab television station Al-Jazeera on Oct. 29, 2004. In the statement, Mr. bin Laden addressed the American people and directly admitted for the first time that he carried out the 9/11 attacks. This may have helped President Bush in his reelection bid by renewing attention on the war on terrorism. AlJazeera via APTN/AP/File
Nigeria's president-elect says he will rid his nation of terrorism. But 33,000 displaced Nigerians at the Minawao refugee camp in neighboring Cameron do not foresee an imminent homecoming.
ByNgala Chimtom, Contributor
Edwin Kindzeka Moki/AP
Mohamadou Ousman hums the Nigerian national anthem as he draws water from a deep well at the Minawao refugee camp. He has been in good spirits since former military general Muhammadu Buhari won the Nigerian election two weeks ago.