By Nick Ragone, director of Ketchum’s Washington, D.C., office
Political campaigns are all about managing expectations.
We've seen this time and again: candidates trying to tamp down expectations with the hopes of wildly exceeding them.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it backfires.
Two days before the Iowa Caucuses, Newt Gingrich awkwardly admitted that he wouldn't win. Too many negative adds, he lamented, had done him in.
Instead of lowering expectations, however, his comments only served to irritate and demoralize supporters - the same supporters who were working feverishly to pull a rabbit out of the hat for the former Speaker.
Rick Santorum, on the other, managed expectations beautifully. As the media began picking up on the pending "Santorum Surge," he refused to take their bait, continually reminding reporters that his was a shoe-string operation that was hoping to crack single digits. A top three finish would be victory, said Santorum. Seems like the strategy worked: he's now the leading 'anti Mitt' conservative alternative.
Mitt Romney also managed expectations well. For months, he had mostly ignored Iowa, his painful loss from four years earlier still fresh in his mind. As Gingrich's support collapsed, however, and he began inching up in the polls, Romney quietly pushed his chips to the middle of the table, a calculated gamble that he could muster a win.
With his eight vote landslide victory, the gamble worked, and now he heads to New Hampshire with a chance to do something that no other Republican - not Reagan, Bush, Dole, Bush or McCain - has accomplished: win both Iowa and New Hampshire. It's ironic that a "Massachusetts moderate," as Gingrich derisively described him, would be the first to pull off the impossible dream.