There is a long and not very encouraging tradition of October surprises involving foreign policy shaking up presidential campaigns.In 1968, Nixon aides passed word to the South Vietnamese president to resist peace proposals from the Johnson administration that were aimed at helping the candidacy of Hubert Humphrey. In 1972 Henry Kissinger gave a dramatic -- and highly misleading -- news conference just before the election announcing that "peace is at hand" in Vietnam. In 1980, again just days before the election, the Iranians broke off negotiations with the Carter administration on releasing the Americans held hostage at the U.S. embassy. In 2000, the attack on the U.S. Navy ship Cole may have helped the chances of George W. Bush.
This year, the Republicans are trying to turn the Banghazi attacks into a foreign policy issue rather than a narrower question of balancing risks and resourcing security. Now it turns out that the issue of an October surprise came up in the infamous "47 percent" tape of Gov. Romney's Florida fundraiser. One of the contributors asked whether Romney could take advantage of a problem like Carter's with the hostages, and Romney replied, "I mean, if something of that nature presents itself I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity." I guess that shouldn't be surprising any more.