Thursday, July 17, 2008

Obama and the Expectations Game

The Obama campaign was unhappy about the New York Times story on the divide between African-American and white opinion on racial issues.

But they had reason to be happy about the survey from which the story was written.

One of the most important things Obama should be happy about is that they're far ahead in the expectations game.

According to the New York Times/CBS News survey, a big majority of those polled believe that Obama is going to win in November. Overall, 54% believe Obama will win and only 30% see McCain winning. Among whites, it's Obama 50%-32% and among blacks 72%-16%. The fact that most people expect Obama to win is one of those"fundamentals" that make life tough for the McCain campaign. When people expect a candidate to win, they're more willing to raise money, volunteer for the candidate, attend events, and vote. Losing the "expectations game" doesn't kill a candidacy but it does make everything more difficult and costly.

The fact that Obama's ahead in the "expectations game" is also a big change from 2004. I can't remember any of my friends or colleagues thinking that John Kerry was going to win and I believe that ingrained pessimism was one of the reasons Kerry lost. If Obama wins, part of the reason will be that he was expected to win.

Obviously, political candidates can turn expectations around. Until the last couple of weeks before the Iowa caucuses, most commentators (including this one) expected Hillary to win the Democratic nomination. But that was all changed by Obama's victory in Iowa.

Perhaps John McCain will figure out away to change expectations in his favor; perhaps Barack Obama will blow it. But right now, the expectations are breaking in Obama's favor.

much harder for John McCain to raise money, recruit volunteers, This is a real change from 2004 when none of the Democrats I knew saw John Kerry as winning the election.

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