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Inside Politics

'October Surprise' guessing game

By Kerry-Ann Hamilton
Special to CNN

Editor's Note: Campus Vibe is a feature that provides student perspectives on the 2004 election from selected colleges across the United States. This week's contributor is Kerry-Ann Hamilton, a masters candidate in International Relations at American University in Washington, D.C. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or American University.

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Michael Inganamort, president of American University's College Republicans.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With about a month to go before the presidential election, some American University students predict an "October surprise," an event that might affect the outcome of the election.

In the tight race between President Bush and Sen. Kerry, a last-minute surprise could give one candidate the deciding edge.

"I think a true October surprise would be the capture of Osama bin Laden. This would certainly solidify four more years for the Republican Party," said graduate student Matt Barkan, a Democrat.

Barkan thinks chances are slim that will happen, and others say they believe it would not have a significant impact even if it did.

"A sudden attack by al Qaeda or the capture of a top al Qaeda figure such as bin Laden or [bin Laden adviser] Ayman al Zawahiri, could swing a couple votes in Bush's favor," sophomore Greg Roman said.

"But a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack would be in Kerry's favor. This is because Bush has failed to support initiatives against non-proliferation, something Kerry strongly supports."

Sarah Crawford identifies herself as a moderate Republican and predicts the surprise might be found in the brewing crisis over Iran's alleged efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

"More trouble in the Middle East will have strong implications for the U.S. elections" especially if it affects Israel, said Crawford, a first year international communication master's degree candidate.

Although Crawford and Barkan have different political ideologies, they agree that the presidential debates might have some effect on the election because candidates can make their cases directly to the public.

Surprises are for pundits?

American University students are concerned with similar issues, but many differ in how they view them.

The issues of the Iraq war and its alienation of U.S. allies, the economy, social issues, and the environment are important to the AU Students for Kerry, a Democratic campus-based organization.

"I think that in October a number of things could happen. A drastic boost in job creation could tip the election in Bush's favor, but -- for Kerry -- further insurgencies and beheadings in Iraq may seal it for him," says sophomore Jon Dawood, the president of the group.

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Kerry-Ann Hamilton is a masters candidate in International Relations at American University.

On the other side, Michael Inganamort, president of the American University College Republicans, said he hopes there is no 'October surprise.'

"I think it's important that in such serious times, we keep a steady focus on defeating terrorism. Surprises may be fun for political pundits, but depending upon their severity, they are not necessarily good for the American public," said Inganamort, who is also vice chairman of the Washington D.C. Federation of College Republicans.

But trying to guess what sort of surprise is in the wings might be a waste of time. Veronica DiConti, a political science professor and associate dean of the Washington Semester Program, believes it's impossible.

"I think the October surprise is something we will identify in hindsight," DiConti said.


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