ABC's John Berman from Oxford, Mississippi:
I have to warn you, I can barely write a complete sentence, and I am hideously ugly. Surprised? Alarmed? Flat-out scared? Well, what I have just done is set expectations, a key part of the political dance that happens before every big debate. You see, if you were to meet me now, and it turned out that I am merely an average writer, and somewhat homely instead of horrific, it would be something of a personal victory.
It is this reasoning that helps explain why reporters received an e-mail from the Obama campaign, touting the debating skills of John McCain, and deriding that of their own candidate. "According to the pundits, McCain's debating skills are unparalleled," the memo says, "and the expectations for him tonight are sky-high. "
Now, I promise, there are not many Obama staffers who think that McCain's skills are unparalleled. But what they just did is make you think that McCain is Cicero. And if for some reason, he is merely good, not but not historic, it would somehow be disappointing.
This is normal from campaigns; set the bar high for your opponent. What I never remember seeing is a campaign going out of its way to slam its own candidate. In this same Obama campaign memo are a number of clips quite critical of Obama, including this humdinger from an Associated Press article: "For a man known as a powerful speaker, Obama has rarely wowed people in political debates. He can come across as lifeless, aloof and windy."
When was the last time you heard a campaign point out that people find their very own candidate "lifeless, aloof, and windy?" It is kind if catchy, they could put it on their posters. "Obama: Change you Can Believe In…because he is Lifeless, Aloof and Windy."