Sunday, August 29, 2004

Buildling Expectations...

In 2000, just before the first Presidential Debate, there were probably three people in the country who expected Governor George W. Bush to hold his own in each of the debates against Vice President Al Gore. One of those people was the President himself, and those other two folks were his closest advisors, Karl Rove and Karen Hughes.

And the funny thing about it is this: the Republicans kept telling the world that Al Gore was going to win. They kept saying "Al Gore is a master debater, and the Governor will make his points, but keep in mind that Al Gore is an incredible debater." The Gore camp wasn't about to deny their candidate was an incredible debater, well-versed on policy and incredibly articulate. And the media, of course, picked up on this and continued to repeat it. By the time the debate began, anyone who'd watched the news would have been surprised to see Governor Bush form coherent sentences or prevent himself from drooling on camera.

Of course that's not what happened. Al Gore did a great job, but George W. Bush held his own. And because expectations were so low, everyone thought that the Governor wiped the floor with the Vice President.

Lowering expectations: it's a well-documented strategy that now President Bush's people have used time and time again. They love to tell their audiences that President Bush is a common man, someone who isn't used to high-falutin' language or numbers or facts. Then when W comes out and seems half-way credible, they claim victory.

Well, someone from John Kerry's camp is paying attention.

I know a lot of you watched the Daily Show last week when Mr. Kerry made his appearance. Most of the back and forth made very little difference. But one thing that he said stood out. Just before the end of the show, John Kerry told Jon Stewart, "The president has won every debate he's ever had," Kerry said. "He beat Ann Richards. He beat Al Gore. So, he's a good debater."

Looks like John Kerry is trying to build expectations back up again, and that's both an uncommonly wise and uncommonly deft strategy from this campaign...


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