A March Surprise?

During the 2008 presidential election, a lot of people — myself included — wondered if some sort of October Surprise might be launched. None were. In the U.K., however, Conservative leader David Cameron — the likely winner, per the prediction markets, in the yet-to-be called election — has just unleashed a doozy: his wife Samantha is expecting the couple’s fourth child. Their first-born, Ivan, recently died at age 6 from a rare neurological condition. It is hard to imagine that a pregnant wife won’t help Cameron a bit more.

If elected, Cameron stands to be the third consecutive prime minister whose wife gives birth while campaigning or living at 10 Downing Street: Sarah Brown gave birth to James Fraser in 2006, and Cherie Blair gave birth to Leo in 2000. The last American president to have a child while in office, meanwhile, was John F. Kennedy. Patrick Bouvier Kennedy was born on August 7, 1963, and died on August 9, 1963.

If Cameron wins, how long will it take American political consultants to require their candidates’ spouses (or, if female, the candidates themselves) to deliver a pregnancy on the campaign trail? (And no, John Edwards does not count.)

Also worth noting in the upcoming U.K. election: the candidates for prime minister (Cameron, incumbent Gordon Brown, and Lib-Dem. candidate Nick Clegg) will this year debate each other, in three televised 90-minute sessions. This is a new wrinkle in British electoral politics. Apparently they’ve seen how well it works here.


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  1. AaronS says:

    Isn’t it ironic that politicians will use their children to win the vote–or, far worse, use the death of a child to win the vote–then pompously declare that their children are “off limits” to the press?

    I would hope that such things are done on purpose (e.g., getting pregnant just to win some votes, etc.), but from what I’ve seen of politicians, I cannot imagine that they would not use just about any means to be elected.

    We should aspire to a country where men are elected based on their records, platform, and arguments, not on age, looks, the looks of their wives, the hipness of their children, the amount of hair on their head, and so forth.

    Wouldn’t that be something?


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  2. Melvin D Melmac, Poughkeepsie, NY says:

    Maybe this bespeaks a new vigor in Britain, maybe the sun will set on less of the empire.

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  3. Brett says:


    You’re living in a dream world if you think that’s possible.

    I wished I lived there too.

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  4. Jackie O says:

    @Aaron – It is very telling that you think that we should only judge or elect the men… based on their merits.

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  5. Melvin D Melmac, Poughkeepsie, NY says:

    Do Dubner and/or Leavitt have any views — I’m new to you freaks! — on the laissez faire view that the Greenspan Fed
    (Reagn thru Bush) took towards the finance industry.

    I think there was sometimes as much science involved as old
    Allan consulting the ghost of Ayn Rand as she galumphed
    around in chunky heels, winding sheets and Marley-esque chains! Those ghostly dark eyes and scowls and that
    creepy voice. One can look up the creepiness via YouTube,
    where there are fawning interviews with Tom Snyder, even
    with Mike Wallace

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  6. GR3ek says:

    “Apparently they’ve seen how well it works here.”

    You have a very English sense of humor.

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  7. Griff says:

    The British tabloid press refers to Mrs Cameron as SamCam…. reading about this I at first thought they’d equipped her with a permanent webcam as part of some electioneering gimmick…

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  8. Ian Kemmish says:

    “It is hard to imagine that a pregnant wife won’t help Cameron a bit more.”

    I fear that you underestimate the weariness and cynicism of the British electorate. The way things have been going recently, it may well have the opposite effect if people conclude that it’s a deliberate ploy. Remember, the closest this man has ever got to a real job was working in PR.

    After all, at the time the child was conceived in December, Mr Cameron was eagerly looking forward to the busiest twelve months of his life. Why opt for all those sleepless nights? Wouldn’t any sane man have taken more precautions at such a time? Wouldn’t the electorate hope for an aspiring PM who was simply “too tired”, after working all day on his manifesto?

    Add to that the spooky coincidence, a few days later, of the – ahem – accidental release of some modelling photos SamCam did “for a friend” over ten years ago and, well, who can blame us for being cynical?

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