Dan Milbank on how team Bush blew the expectations game:
“The Bush team’s ferocious advertising push in the spring and summer and the Republican convention were successful at defining Kerry as a vacillating opportunist who has no coherent policy on Iraq and is spineless on terrorism. But the strategy may have worked too well, pollsters and operatives say: By turning Kerry into a cartoon, the Bush campaign created such low expectations for the senator that he easily exceeded them in the debates.”
This is dead-on.
I covered this angle here following the first debate:
From the beginning of this campaign, the Bush strategy has been to recreate Kerry as a wimp, a person to be ridiculed, a weakling who would not protect us, a heathen who would ban our bible and pillage our bank accounts, and one who is not fit for office. Cheney likes to call him a wannabe. Nothing was sacred.
And after months of this nonsense they thought they could pump up expectations about Kerry in a few days.
This Bush strategy of character assassination went overboard a long time ago and it finally backfired on Thursday night. It cost the Bushies the debate, their built-up lead, and quite possibly the election.
Casual political observers expected nothing out of Kerry on Thursday night. And from Bush they expected the gallant, brave leader of men that the President’s speech writers and campaign operatives had carefully manufactured out of words, ads, and hand-picked crowds along the campaign trail.
By the time Thursday night came around, viewers were sitting down to watch what would turn out to become not just a Kerry win, but a classic David vs Goliath match-up. Except in this case, Goliath seemed out of sorts, and instead of a single stone, David seemed to have an entire bunker-busting nuclear arsenal being shot from his sling…