When politicians and campaign strategists talk about an October surprise, it usually refers to some type of contrived political event intended to alter the presidential election just days before voting day.
LBJ's infamous halting of bombing strikes in North Vietnam the weekend before election day in 1968 is the most obvious example, but virtually every campaign since then has had some type of October surprise.
Sadly and tragically, this year's October surprise isn't a contrived political event at all; rather, it's an act of God, a devastating storm the likes of which has never been seen on the eastern seaboard.
Never before -- or at least not in modern times -- has the country experienced a natural disaster of this proportion just a week before Election Day.
For President Obama and Mitt Romney, there is no playbook on how to deal with such an unforeseen and calamitous event except to employ common sense and put campaigning and politics aside, which both have done.
The president has rightly earned plaudits for his decisive action and close coordination with governors and mayors in the affected areas. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie -- a Romney surrogate and outspoken Obama critic -- has offered nothing but unqualified and vociferous praise of the president's performance, an almost unthinkable endorsement just a few days ago.
For his part, Mitt Romney has suspended campaigning and turned scheduled rallies into food drives for storm victims. His only words have been of support and sympathy for those in impacted areas.
But that's what disasters do -- they bring out the best in people, including our elected officials. Politics and campaigning take a backseat to coming together and helping our brethren in need. During times of crisis, there are no Republicans or Democrats, just Americans.
The campaign will get back to normal pretty quickly -- most likely by Thursday or Friday. But hopefully the rhetoric will be softer, the tone more temperate, the sniping and name-calling kept to a minimum.
With so many millions of Americans struggling to regain normalcy in their lives, having a reasonable political discourse these remaining few days is the least the campaigns can do.
Nick Ragone is a partner and director of Ketchum's Washington office. He is the author of four books on the presidency, including his most recent - Presidential Leadership: 15 Decisions that Changed the Nation. He is a regular contributor to Fox News.