Notably, all of those October surprises involved foreign intrigues, unexpected events in other countries and no small degree of jeopardy for the American people. Whether they actually altered the outcome of any of those elections is debatable. But given the state of world affairs and the abysmal state of our nation's security, this year's presidential campaign presents all manner of October surprise opportunities. Here are the top five:
--Syria. Counting on the United Nations to stop the carnage and prevent a bloody sectarian civil war has proved to be a devastating mistake. Syria is increasingly likely to become a catastrophically failed state in a matter of weeks. But neither the Romney campaign nor the Obama campaign appears to have a plan on how to deal with radical Islamists occupying Damascus and acquiring stockpiles of chemical weapons.
--Iran. Sanctions imposed by the U.N. have utterly failed to deter the ayatollahs from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. Tehran's threats to close the Strait of Hormuz have driven up the worldwide price of crude oil and Americans' pain at the pump. The O-Team has dissuaded Israel from military action until after the presidential election -- but after Nov. 6, all bets are off. The Romney campaign has yet to explain how Mitt Romney would handle the Iranian threat if he were to become commander in chief.
--Latin America. Authoritarians Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua aren't the only problems south of the border. Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala are combating narco-terrorists, who threaten civil governance and rule of law with a tidal wave of murder and corruption. Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps are in Venezuela and Bolivia, and the Chinese are now the biggest outside investors in Brazil. Both campaigns are mute about their policies for the region.
--China. Beijing now asserts sovereignty over the entire South China Sea -- and all fishing and mineral rights therein. Benigno Aquino III, president of the Philippines, has tried and failed to get the attention of the Obama administration, which claims to have a new "Pacific strategy." The media have yet to ask Romney how he would handle the issue.
--Afghanistan. It's no longer news to the so-called mainstream media, but even with the Obama drawdown, there are still more than 85,000 young Americans at war in the shadows of the Hindu Kush. The Afghan army is being handed greater security responsibilities daily. In neighboring nuclear-armed Pakistan, Taliban militants and members of the Haqqani network are trying to acquire man-portable surface-to-air missiles to bring down a planeload of U.S. troops heading home.
This election is supposed to be about the economy and jobs. That's no surprise. But if one or more of these foreign flash points catch fire, it would be nice to know that the commander in chief we hire in November has at least thought about how to put it out.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.