Clinton Camp Expectations Game In North Carolina Democratic Primary? Suspected Leak To Drudge About 15 Point Loss
There’s a new SCREAMING HEADLINE!!!! on the Drudge Report — which many suspect to be the opening salvo in a day when the camps of Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama will try all day to “set expectations” on how the race will turn out…in other words, give out disinformation so when the votes are counted they can then declare it a huge victory even if it is not.
DANGER DAY: HILLARY FACES ’15-POINT DEFEAT’ IN NC; SEES INDIANA WIN, screeches the monster headline on Drudge. It reads in part:
Hillary Clinton’s inner circle now fears a stinging defeat is likely in North Carolina.
“Look, we worked hard and gave it our best shot, but the demographics, well, they are what they are,” a top campaign source explained to the DRUDGE REPORT as voting began Tuesday morning.
A big scoop? YES. Since few polls (look for yourself here) predict that kind of win. Most, in fact, show a TIGHTENING RACE and some analysts now raise a possibility unheard of just weeks ago: that there is a chance Obama could lose this race. Even Kos, founder of the huge The Daily Kos blog, is looking at a ton of polling data and doesn’t come up with a trend towards a 15 percent Obama win.
But to the uninitiated:
1. There has been a lot of coverage over the past year noting the Clinton campaign’s increasing closeness to Drudge as a news source.
2. Sources don’t favor certain outlets because they think reporters have friendly faces. They do so because they feel they get good coverage, can influence other coverage, and can get the message they want out the way they want to get it out.
3. If the Clinton folks say they’re behind by 15 and Obama wins by 5 points the Clinton camp declares it a victory for them. If he wins by 3 points they can say there were some reports saying they were behind by 15 points and it’s a huge win. (Of course if Obama LOSES North Carolina the nearly unanimous belief is that he is in political hot water).
4. The SCREAMING HEADLINE cannot be missed by anyone and will be duly noted by mainstream media and blogs — some of which will run the material not stressing the role of the setting expectations game on voting.
5. If internal Clinton polls indicate she will will it, getting the message out that she’ll lose it would make the big upset an even bigger upset.
Why do expectations play a role?
–It can help a candidate get its supporters out to the polls and make its campaign workers work harder. Oh, my God, Hillary is going to lose by 15 points! I’ll HAVE to get to the polls today and bring Aunt Agnes with me!
–It helps provide a new “fact” (that may not be able to be confirmed — in this case there is no poll that has shown this kind of margin) into the conventional wisdom. It’ll be mentioned on CNN, MSNBC and — most assuredly — Fox News.
–It can help discourage the opposing candidate’s supporters from voting. Vote schmote, Obama’s gonna win anyway by a big margin. He won’t need my vote!
However, from a media standpoint, what’s most fascinating about this Drudge report is the seemingly symbiotic relationship during this campaign between it and the Clinton camp.
But can this be an accurate estimate — when the votes are counted could this turn out to have been accurate? If so, it would again underscore the increasing use of Drudge by the Clinton campaign.
P.S. Look for a denial that it came from the Clinton camp. That’s the way this game works, but it’s hard to see how this report could be of help to Obama in either setting expectations or motivating his voters to go to the polls.
THIS JUST IN! The Clinton campaign has denied it, with one top official saying he never talked to Matt Drudge in his life (then they sent an email?).
SOME WEBLOG REACTION TO THIS STORY
It’s “Danger Day” for Hillary Clinton, according to Drudge Report, which speaks to a “top campaign official” who worries that Clinton will lose by 15 points to Barack Obama in North Carolina. The flash, however, also notes that the campaign team is working to lower expectations. But Clinton-supporter Jerome Armstrong sees hope for Clinton in both primaries Tuesday, as she’s been able to pick up undecided voters in the final days of recent contests.
I think Drudge’s projections of a 15-point Hillary Clinton defeat here in North Carolina are a bit off the mark, but I think that it is still probably more accurate than those who are projecting a close race. There is no severe weather projected to dampen turnout, and enthusiasm for Obama is high in major population centers of the state. African-American voters coming out for Obama in droves based primarily on the color of his skin (content of his character? Yeah, Wright), and his “rock star” persona crafted early in the campaign is dominating university cultures across the state and the Volvo-driving, NPR-listening metropolitan ‘burbs.
There has been an early attempt at expectations setting, apparently from the Clinton camp. The Drudge Report says Clinton insiders are predicting their candidate will win in Indiana and lose badly — by as many as 15 points, maybe even more — in North Carolina. Drudge quotes an unnamed “top [Clinton] campaign source” as saying, “Look, we worked hard and gave it our best shot, but the demographics, well, they are what they are.”
Considering that there still isn’t much other spin out there yet, I don’t think Drudge’s story necessarily gives us much insight into what those in the Clinton campaign are really thinking; that’ll become somewhat clearer as they talk more to other reporters throughout the day. One thing I’d definitely keep an ear out for, though, is anyone high up in the Clinton organization calling a state a “must-win” for Obama. I first heard them saying that on a conference call with reporters on Super Tuesday, when they said it about California and Massachusetts, two states Clinton ended up winning, and subsequent experience has just about confirmed for me that “must-win for Obama” is Clinton camp code for “a state we know we’re going to win.”
I am lousy at predicting but I will go with the long term polls and not PR being ‘leaked’ to the headlines of the Drudge Report. I think Hillary does well in NC bring that state to a near tie – which where the democrat primary has been all season. After today – there will still be no clear winner.
Terry McAuliffe was on Fox News this morning with Bill Hemmer. Hemmer said word is from Drudge that Clinton advisors say Obama will take N.C. by 15 points. He asked Terry if he’s hearing those numbers and if he thinks Hillary can win that state. McAuliffe said he’s never spoken to Drudge in his life and he hasn’t heard those numbers….But, McAuliffe wouldn’t answer if he agreed with the prediction and instead started talking about Kentucky, W. Va. and Puerto Rico.
Hemmer tried to pin him down three times on N.C. and then Indiana. McAuliffe finally ended by saying he thinks she’ll win Indiana. When asked the margin, he said “a win by one vote is a win.” It’s very early but he sure didn’t inspire confidence.
Here’s what this “leak” to Drudge really means. Hillary now expects to lose North Carolina by five points or less. What her people are trying to do is manage the expectations to make that loss look like a smashing victory (which, in reality, it probably would be).
Today is not going to be a good day for Barack Obama. But I doubt it will change the ultimate outcome. The media, so thoroughly in the tank for Obama, won’t let it.
For more blog reaction GO HERE.