The Expectation Game

With almost perfect precision, what I had warned in a post early Monday came to pass: The expectations for Gingrich to dominate the debate was so unreasonably high that some were disappointed, but what’s more important to notice is how the media couldn’t wait to push this new theme. “Gingrich off his game,” they lament, and “No standing ovations,” they scream, but what made Gingrich’s performances last week so remarkable was precisely the fact that standing ovations in such events are a rarity, and far from the rule.

In fact, in Monday night’s debate, the moderator, Brian Williams, instructed the crowd to hold applause.  This took away the dynamic interplay between Gingrich and the crowd, but what it largely accomplished was to make it a boring affair in which the crowd itself was no longer any factor, and for the TV audience, it seemed Gingrich had faded some.

I cannot report to you anything specific about the Monday night debate except what I have gathered from other sources, because I was not able to view it.  My apologies to those of you who wanted to read my take.  I will leave it to those of you who watched it to form your own opinions, of course, but in the after-coverage, the developing theme is that Gingrich “underperformed” but only in comparison to last week’s events.  From those with whom I’ve subsequently spoken, he did as well as anybody on the stage, but he didn’t have that “magic moment” as in the two previous debates.  As I pointed out early Monday, nobody can be atop their game every time, and nobody can score the big play in in every game.  Based on what I’ve read, Romney was apparently somewhat defensive, and seemed edgy and desperate, but I’ve also read that Gingrich had a few pregnant pauses.  I will endeavor to watch the video when I find it posted on-line, but it’s really not so shocking that Gingrich might not have lived up to the unreasonably high expectation the media and his most recent performances have created.

Meanwhile, Romney could have managed to stammer out a few sentences and be pronounced a success, because the expectations for his performance were so low following last week’s debacle.  I don’t really consider those sort of false expectations on either side, and neither should the electorate, but unfortunately, the TV audience tuned in to see the guy who created a stir last week in South Carolina, but with a different set of ground-rules, and a different kind of crowd, one could hardly expect similar results.

You can expect the media to use these expectations, or more correctly, the fact that Gingrich didn’t live up to them one night in three as evidence he’s “off his game” or other such nonsense, but you should understand by now that the media builds people up with the notion of later knocking them down again, particularly when it comes to this expectations game. In this case, Gingrich’s prior performances became the standard against which he would be measured, and this resulted in his more average performance being seen as less than spectacular.

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5 Responses to The Expectation Game

  1. I felt Romney did quite well. He staked out the "American entrepreneur" position and put Gingrich on the defensive for most of the night. His excessive blinking early in the debate however as he stared impishly at Brian Williams was just weird. Not sure if it will further alienate people form him.

    Gingrich has two or three times looked passive and muddled on the Freddie Mac and his Speakership issues. He has got to find a way to articulate that better.

    His intellect I think is frozen when Romney pulls his debate stunt of overwhelming Gingrich with 20 negatives and giving Gingrich only 30 seconds to respond.

    What Newt SHOULD do IMO is to lob 20 back as an example of how ridiculous the format is to allow such things.

    Santorum had is best debate yet which is like saying you had the best stalk of celery you've ever had for dinner. His foreign policy answers were the highlight and quite good – but he's got this going for him:

    If Mitch Daniels jumps in the race, he''ll look like Liberace.

  2. Llew Quinol says:

    Mitt attacked Newt, but still…no fire behind it. Newt again shows how much more experienced he is, and dealt with the NBC moderators easily. I admit that it was strange nobody was cheering and realized that the audience must have been muzzled. Typical for liberals to try and control conservatives.

  3. Dave says:

    Mittens and Newt will beat each other to death until they are no longer viable. That will leave us with Santorum or Paul. Paul was very articulate and much better organized in his performance last night.

  4. gggtexas says:

    FYI –

    The RNC has adopted a resolution exposing Agenda 21 –

  5. CPB says:

    Newt is always able to spit out statistics and historical information on any issue – he sure appears to be more educated and experienced than Mitt. Can't help but believe he'd do better than Mitt against Obama in any kind of matchup. I watched most of it and I didn't see Newt squirming very much.