Finally, Honest Spin

Reason No. 423 why I can’t wait for the general election: No more tedious, transparent expectations gaming.

Right now we’re being told that Barack Obama doesn’t plan on coming close to winning the Pennsylvania primary. Heck, he’d be happy if he got a dozen Keystoners to turn out for him. At least that’s what his campaign wants us to think. Meanwhile, Clinton’s camp claims that Obama expects to win Pennsylvania, that he’s outspending them 4-to-1 in the state, and that any loss whatsoever is a “significant loss.” By next week, they’ll have us believe that anything less than 100 percent of the vote would be devastating for Obama.

In a general election, by contrast, there’s no advantage to pretending you’re going to lose. It doesn’t matter what media coverage is like coming out of the race, since there’s no need to produce “momentum. After Nov. 4, it’s over. There’s no advantage to being the underdog. And there’s no debate over what constitutes “a win.” (Well, there are exceptions .)

There’s still spin, of course, but it’s more straightforward. If your fundraising numbers are low, you pretend they’re high. You don’t use their lowness to tamp down expectations. You don’t pretend your lead in the polls is less than it really is. In the general, the lying is more … honest.

Just look at McCain’s campaign right now. They know they’re going to be outspent no matter who the Democratic nominee is. So, they’ve combined with the RNC to form one über-fundraising mechanism. That’s where the spin comes in: They’d have us believe there’s no difference between McCain’s campaign fund and the RNC fund. Reports Politico :

[T]o help counter their money deficit, McCain strategists now suggest that the proper comparison should be between the combined assets of the campaign and the RNC and that of their opponent and the far less flush DNC.

“The McCain camp is funded jointly,” is how one adviser describes it.

How refreshing! None of this “it’s good we’re down” crap. None of this reverse psychology expectations jujitsu. Just good, old-fashioned distortion.

If there’s a spin battle over money, it will be waged over Obama’s (likely) decision not to take public funds, despite (strong) suggestions that he would if his opponent did. But even then, the debate is more about keeping promises than who has more money. Can’t wait.