The Trump team’s October Surprise — about Hunter Biden, the Ukraine and whatever else Rudy Giuliani, Rich Gannon and his crew dreamed up — was both everywhere and nowhere, all at once.
The New York Post, hardly a bastion of ethical journalism but until now conveyed with the cachet of legacy print media, famously went with the story on its sensational front page and followed with variations on the theme for the rest of the week, only to be thwarted by the same social media channels that they had all counted on to amplify the story. Twitter banned the sharing of links to the Post article, unprecedented. The Wall Street Journal passed on it after it didn’t meet their reporting standards. And unless you’re ensconced in the right-wing mediasphere, the only thing you likely know about this story is that it doesn’t check out.
As of this writing, I have no idea if Trump won the election or not. Maybe Joe Biden could be far enough ahead on election night that the GOP will have nothing to litigate. Perhaps there will be no clear winner of the presidential race on election night, and the thing will end up in the courts like in 2000. And maybe Trump will pull this one off, too — but if he does, it won’t be because of this “But her emails!” moment that carried him through in 2016. This one didn’t take.
And why not?
Early voting has somewhat killed the October surprise. Nearly half of registered North Carolinians have already voted, a trend that carries across the states that have enacted the measure — 62 million have already cast their ballots, almost 45 percent of the total that voted in 2016, and the election is not until next week.
And some of us are a lot smarter about news consumption than we once were. After four years of being bombarded with actual fake news — and perhaps worse, unwarranted accusations of fake news — we’re learning to spot it for ourselves.
So Trump’s Hail Mary, always the most desperate of plays, lands without a ripple among the undecided. All it did was buttress their case among the lowest-information voters in the electorate. And those folks made up their minds a long time ago.