08 February 2008

Beware of High Expectations

I am writing this the evening before a critical five primary/caucus weekend. We all know that currently, the Clinton-Obama race is practically tied. Now the pundits and pollsters are saying that this weekend’s contests, as well as those next Tuesday, all decidedly favor Senator Obama. He could win the lions’ share of these next eight races and take a slim lead in the delegate count.

But here is precisely one of the areas where the Clinton camp has out-maneuvered Obama--the important Expectations Game. The way these next few races have shaped up, Obama has to win. Clinton can lose most, if not all of these primaries and caucuses. If Obama stumbles just a bit, it will be a perceived setback. If Clinton wins one (Maine possibly), she will have exceeded expectations (a Comeback Kid sort of scenario).

The Obama people desperately need to deal with this problem soon. They are letting expectations form the campaign narrative--and this has already hurt them. Obama tacitly allowed the public to anticipate a New Hampshire knock-out win over Clinton. And then last week, he failed to damper very high Super Tuesday expectations.

In a race this close, where a few delegates (or super delegates) can be swayed by perceptions, the Obama campaign needs to stop letting Clinton and/or the media write the script.

Louisiana: February 9 (primary)
Nebraska: February 9 (caucus)
Virgin Islands: February 9 (caucus)
Washington: February 9 (caucus)
Maine: February 10 (caucus)

D.C.: February 12
Maryland: February 12
Virginia: February 12

Hawaii: February 19
Wisconsin: February 19

Texas: March 4
Ohio: March 4
Rhode Island: March 4
Vermont: March 4