Playing the "Expectations Game"

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Mar 26, 2007 12:26 PM

In politics, it is axiomatic that you want to under-promise and over-achieve. And when it comes to money, you want to lower expectations about your campaign -- and raise expectations about your opponents.

(Politico's Jonathan Martin has a great piece today about how all the campaigns are already spinning the upcoming financial reports.)

On the road in New Hampshire this weekend, when rumors started swirling that Mitt Romney would report $40 million this quarter, I wondered if they were true, or merely an attempt to raise expectations for Romney.

Here's what National Journal's Marc Ambinder had to say about this on Hotline's "On Call" blog:

When John McCain told reporters yesterday that his campaign's fundraising efforts had been hurt by a late start, was he artfully trying to lower expectations?

A Mitt Romney fundraiser with access to the campaign's daily fundraising tallies tells the Hotline that Romney won't raise more than $20 million -- much lower than the $30 to $35 million figure being floated about Washington by some of Romney's allies.

It appears to me that Romney will likely report more money than McCain -- but the $40 million figure is probably being intentionally inflated by his opponents.

At the end of the day, money is important, as it is a credibility test. Still, McCain's spokesman recently told David Brody: "We're confident of the organization that has been put in place. I wouldn't trade our position in the race with anyone."

Though the filing period ends March 31, reports aren't due until April 15. On that date, reporters will have a field day. Keep in mind, the story won't just be about who has raised the most money. Here are some possible headlines to come out of the story:

1. Romney/McCain/Rudy raise most, but spend most (remember, you can only spend NET money).

2. 50% of Romney's money comes from Utah/Nevada (you may not like this story, but it would be newsworthy).

3. Brownback/Gilmore/Hunter are dwarfed by the big three.

... It's hard to predict which of these headlines will be the one that sticks. We will have to wait until April 15.