Thursday, October 2

Expectations game

Ambers makes a list:

There is no single expectation level for Palin to meet tonight. There are, quite obviously, a half dozen different levels corresponding to the difference audiences.

The American public wants to know whether Gov. Palin has the stature to stand on the world stage with Biden, Obama and McCain, that she is not manifestly different; that she is exceptional.

Unengaged liberal Democrats are waiting for her to drag her knuckles across the stage.

Engaged liberal Democrats expect her to emote and preen, to be folksy and rural, to avoid substance.

In the McCain campaign: frankly, expectations are high -- perhaps nowhere higher. The weight of the world is on Gov. Palin; she needs to avoid mistakes, challenge Sen. Biden, help to turn the narrative of the race back to Barack Obama, and to recapture her public image.

The media -- well, various different elements are watching for different things. Some, let's be honest, expect a knuckle-dragger too, but others will give her the win if she avoids major errors and finds a way to rise above her talking points.

The Obama campaign believes that the expectations game is absurd. Joe Biden cannot be mean, but he can't be nice, because that would be sexist too. He can't be too senatorial, but he can't be too regular, etc. Aides expect Joe Biden to do just fine.

Professional conservatives hope that Palin comes off as minimally competent.

Most of us fall in the first camp as well as others. I am "engaged" and almost certainly voting Democrat this year, so it's fitting that for her to "emote and preen, be folksy and rural, avoid substance" suits my own expectations exactly right.

That said, I also think the Obama campaign is correct to view the "expectations game" for Biden as absurd, and that the McCain people's high hopes won't pan out.

Of course that doesn't mean they'll admit they were dashed: I fully expect to hear things like "She performed strong, she connected with the American people, she showed that she is a reform leader who will bring change to Washington", etc. etc, even if it's bullcrap.

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