Politics is a game of expectations.
Come from behind and win a race you are expected to lose and you’ll be called a genius.
Lose a close race you are expected to win and you’ll be called something else.
This past week, both parties have been playing expectations games. Republicans (named and unnamed) are leaking news of good polls, money raised, and spreading the scent of a coming landslide to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and through opinion columns. (This is designed to pry money from beltway and K-Street bigwigs. They fear offending Harry Reid if they give to Republicans. They also fear being on the wrong side if Republicans win.)
Some unnamed Democrats echo the Republican leakers. (This is done to scare unions and democratic funders and black leaders into get-out-the-vote efforts and more money for last minute media buys.)
What is the truth? Obama is a drag on Democrats. Harry Reid and his party are paying a price for a do-nothing Senate. The Republicans still have no message other than ‘we hate Obama too.’ We have the makings of a low turnout election. If the ‘wave’ crests at just the right time, Republicans will win more seats than expected, and declare they have a mandate to oppose Obama. (They have not asked for a mandate to do anything else.) If the wave crests too early, Democrats may do better than expected and they will declare victory even if they lose the Senate.
Another Truth. At this point two years ago, the ruling consultant class, and the Republican smart boys were saying (and also honestly believed) that Romney would win. We know how that turned out.
A Final Truth: Play the expectations game at your own peril. Those who play it are often forced to wear egg on their face. Usually those in the know about the inner workings of a campaign don’t talk. Smart campaign operatives are too smart to believe the spin they see in newspapers. Smart candidates use their ink, tv, radio time to drive home the contrast with their opponent rather than spinning polls. It’s never over until it’s over and if you take your foot off the pedal because of what you see the spin doctors say you deserve to lose.
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