With almost perfect precision, what I had warned in a post early Monday came to pass: The expectations for Gingrich to dominate the debate was so unreasonably high that some were disappointed, but what’s more important to notice is how the media couldn’t wait to push this new theme. “Gingrich off his game,” they lament, and “No standing ovations,” they scream, but what made Gingrich’s performances last week so remarkable was precisely the fact that standing ovations in such events are a rarity, and far from the rule.

In fact, in Monday night’s debate, the moderator, Brian Williams, instructed the crowd to hold applause.  This took away the dynamic interplay between Gingrich and the crowd, but what it largely accomplished was to make it a boring affair in which the crowd itself was no longer any factor, and for the TV audience, it seemed Gingrich had faded some.

I cannot report to you anything specific about the Monday night debate except what I have gathered from other sources, because I was not able to view it.  My apologies to those of you who wanted to read my take.  I will leave it to those of you who watched it to form your own opinions, of course, but in the after-coverage, the developing theme is that Gingrich “underperformed” but only in comparison to last week’s events.  From those with whom I’ve subsequently spoken, he did as well as anybody on the stage, but he didn’t have that “magic moment” as in the two previous debates.  As I pointed out early Monday, nobody can be atop their game every time, and nobody can score the big play in in every game.  Based on what I’ve read, Romney was apparently somewhat defensive, and seemed edgy and desperate, but I’ve also read that Gingrich had a few pregnant pauses.  I will endeavor to watch the video when I find it posted on-line, but it’s really not so shocking that Gingrich might not have lived up to the unreasonably high expectation the media and his most recent performances have created.

Meanwhile, Romney could have managed to stammer out a few sentences and be pronounced a success, because the expectations for his performance were so low following last week’s debacle.  I don’t really consider those sort of false expectations on either side, and neither should the electorate, but unfortunately, the TV audience tuned in to see the guy who created a stir last week in South Carolina, but with a different set of ground-rules, and a different kind of crowd, one could hardly expect similar results.

You can expect the media to use these expectations, or more correctly, the fact that Gingrich didn’t live up to them one night in three as evidence he’s “off his game” or other such nonsense, but you should understand by now that the media builds people up with the notion of later knocking them down again, particularly when it comes to this expectations game. In this case, Gingrich’s prior performances became the standard against which he would be measured, and this resulted in his more average performance being seen as less than spectacular.

Advertisements