The "expectations game" is stupid
Reuters reports that the "expectations game is in full swing" ahead of tonight's vice presidential debates.
According to conventional wisdom, it's better for a candidate to surpass low expectations than to fall short of high expectations.
So, we're treated to the unusual spectacle of partisans throwing cold water on their preferred candidates and lavishly praising the other side.
We've got Obama's right hand man, David Plouffe proclaiming that Sarah Palin is one of the best debaters in American politics.
Perhaps the most ridiculous example of this tactic was when Republican operative Matthew Dowd said that John Kerry was a better debater than Cicero.
Is there any evidence that this ritual actually works? It's better to under-promise and over-deliver than it is to disappoint.
Then again, we see what we expect to see. That's what the soft bigotry of low expectations is all about. When we start with low expectations, we're apt to seize on evidence that confirms our belief--and vice versa.
Does anyone have any empirical evidence to support the notion that artificially distorting expectations works? Or is this just another irrational pregame ritual?