6/2/2006 12:01:00 AM - Rich Galen
[ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS ALERT: I am a paid consultant to the campaign of KT McFarland for US Senate.]
The "expectation game" is of great significance in politics. The difference between being seen as a winner or a loser often has less to do with the actual result, than how those results differ from what the results were expected to be.
This material will be on your final, so please take notes.
This week in New York, Republicans and Democrats chose their candidates for Governor and US Senate.
The Democrats chose Hillary Rodham Clinton to be their candidate for Senate and Elliot Spitzer to be their candidate for Governor - each by acclimation.
The GOP, however, had a battle for those positions. Under New York law, if more than one candidate files for an office then candidates must get at least 25% of the weighted vote of the delegates to get on the ballot.
My candidate for Senate, KT McFarland, was a late-comer into the race. In fact, she only got into the Senate race 10 weeks ago. Her opponent, former mayor of Yonkers John Spencer had been running hard for much longer and was the presumptive candidate.
Over the course of the last couple of months McFarland visited most of New York's counties, placed calls to every county chair, wrote to every delegate a number of times, and generally put on a very good campaign.
Through it all, the Spencer pooh-poohed McFarland's effort saying he had more than enough support to keep her off the ballot.
In fact, on the morning of the delegate vote, Spencer put under each door (or, at least under my door) a flyer proclaiming he had 78% of the votes.
On top of that, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, placed calls to the two most powerful Republicans in New York - the Senate Majority Leader and Governor George Pataki - urging them to twist arms and get the county chairs to endorse Spencer.
Pataki was actually in a room just off the convention floor, sitting like Jabba the Hutt, surrounded by fawning subalterns, summoning county chairs into his presence, suggesting very strongly that they support Spencer.
I know this, because I went into that room and told Governor Pataki he was making a mistake.
When the vote was actually taken, Spencer got about 63% of the vote, but McFarland got 36.5%.
The New York Post, which has particularly brutal toward the McFarland campaign, was forced to call it a "stronger-than-expected showing." The NY Times said the level of her support "surprised many people here."
The next day the scene shifted to the race for Governor. Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld was facing off against long-time GOP office holder John Faso. Weld had been the front runner and was the favorite of Governor Pataki.
Pataki was supposed to endorse Weld, but as Weld's support kept slipping, so did the date of the endorsement until it slipped right past the convention.
Pataki's people made phone calls to drum up support for Weld, but when the noses were counted Weld drew, according to a report in Congressional Quarterly, 39% to Faso's 61%.
This was seen as a brutal defeat for Weld because the betting line going in was that Weld would get over 50% of the votes.
The lesson? Keep expectations under control.
McFarland gets less than 37% and is called the winner. Weld gets about 40% and is called the loser.
Governor Pataki, who has made no secret of his desire to run for President, failed miserably in his self-appointed role as king-maker on both days of the convention.
Memo to Pataki: If you can't persuade delegates from upstate New York, what are the chances you will be able to influence caucus voters in Iowa?
Zero, is my expectation. Zero chance.
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to coverage of the GOP convention, another popular license plate Mullfoto, and an odd Catchy Caption of the Day.