It’s generally not wise to hype expectations in advance of an election; that makes it extra easy to disappoint. But, by the same token, it’s also a little foolish to depress expectations so greatly that your supporters lose enthusiasm for you. Apparently, Newt Gingrich’s frank admission yesterday that he didn’t think he would win Iowa upset at least one potential supporter. Political Ticker reports:
A precinct captain called in Monday night and told the former speaker, while he was riding on his bus from Cedar Rapids to Davenport, how disappointed he was that Gingrich was essentially counting himself out while he prepared to caucus on the candidate’s behalf.
“I want people to hear you say you’re going to win tonight,” the precinct captain said to Gingrich on the phone.
The former speaker tried to inject the same enthusiasm in his response. “If we do win, it will be an enormous achievement and I will be very deeply in your debt,” he said.
In light of the phone call from the precinct captain, Gingrich did what any politician would do; he eased up on the candor. At an event in Davenport today, Gingrich told supporters he thinks his campaign could pull off “one of the great upsets in the history of the Iowa caucuses.” He then instructed them: “And so I want you to take that attitude into the next 24 hours.” Perhaps he was projecting his own earlier despair onto them; from the sounds of it, it was Gingrich and not they who needed that advice.
At any rate, Gingrich is right: He could pull off a great upset. It’s extremely unlikely, but 41 percent of Iowans who have a first choice still say they could be persuaded to vote for someone else, according to the latest Des Moines Register poll. That’s not insignificant. Nevertheless, if I were Gingrich — or a committed Gingrich fan — I’d be far more concerned to secure the fourth-place slot. If Rick Perry beats out Gingrich for that finish, he’ll carry that momentum into South Carolina.
Meantime, speaking of South Carolina, Michele Bachmann has canceled a couple events there. The campaign says the cancellations were just routine “rescheduling” and the Congresswoman still says she won’t drop out no matter how she finishes tonight — but that remains to be seen.