Home 2012 races The big issue in the 2012 GOP Senate Primary: Expectations

The big issue in the 2012 GOP Senate Primary: Expectations

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( – promoted by lowkell)

by Paul Goldman

If “location, location, location” is the mantra for real estate, then “expectations, expectations, expectations” is the watchword for politics — triply so for tomorrow’s GOP Senate primary.

George Allen, former Governor and former U.S. Senator, is trying to make history in Virginia: the first person to ever lose a general election race for the Senate and then come back to win a seat in the world’s most exclusive debating society. Never happened before — ever.

Step one in the process for Allen is winning the GOP nomination tomorrow to face former Governor Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate. Mr. Allen faces three opponents listed on the GOP ballot, and one who isn’t — Ms. Expectations. Right now, she is his biggest worry, assuming the polls are right.

The reason? The polls show Allen with a huge lead, far exceeding the magical 50% barrier. Polling in primary elections has often proved to be a very tricky business, especially when faced with situations as exist for tomorrow’s vote — very little press interest, an electorate that is basically exhausted by the drawn-out GOP presidential nomination process, little history of GOP Senate primaries in June, and the perception that Mr. Allen is the sure winner.

The polls, as best I can tell, are based on far more people saying they are certain to vote than will actually cast ballots tomorrow; public opinion survey’s are often way wrong in predicting turnout.

In reality, therefore, it isn’t statistically “fair” to set any expectation levels for any of the folks on the ballot tomorrow. But Ms. Expectations is a rather independent woman who makes up her own rules, and she has set the “expectation” for Mr. Allen in the 50.0-59.9% range. Anything lower will be considered to have missed expectations – and will set off a week of stories about how Mr. Allen’s candidacy showed weakness even in his own party. Conversely, if Allen’s primary percentage hits 60% or higher, this will be seen as his having shown strength in the GOP and suggesting he has gotten the old mojo back.

Finally, in the highly unlikely event that Mr. Allen were to lose tomorrow, then of course Ms. Expectations would be proclaiming the GOP primary winner as the biggest upset winner in the history of GOP politics — and deservedly so.

Risk vs Reward Ms. Expectation’s Bottom Line

As a statistical matter, I think Ms. Expectation’s is having some fun with Mr. Allen. Anything North of 60% in a 4-way contested race (Mr. Marshall and Ms. Radke and Reverend Jackson have run spirited races, and have not been daunted by trailing hugely in the polls) is hard to get. All across the country, GOP voters have been voting against “establishment” candidates like Mr. Allen in sizable numbers, and this has led to surprising defeats for incumbent U.S. Senators.

In that regard, I think Ms. Expectations could have legitimately reduced Mr. Allen’s expectations had she wanted. But instead, she set them so that he will need 60%+ to clear the bar.

Therefore, it seems to me the statistical “risk” to Mr. Allen is greater than the likely statistical “reward.” Ms. Expectations has done the boy no favors. But you can’t argue with her. She gets to set the rules. In that regard, she has set them so that even if Allen gets 60+, the media may still consider it a “so what, he beat three nobodies” and move on.

If I were Mike Thomas, the able campaign manager for Mr. Allen, I would not be happy with Ms. Expectations right now.

Over at the Kaine camp, equally able campaign guru Mike Henry is in a happier frame of mind. Ms. Expectations has been good to him for tomorrow. But she plays no favorites in the end. She gets to re-set the game after the primary.

But first, the GOP votes tomorrow.

As for Mr. Marshall, Ms. Radke and Reverend Jackson, they too have to deal with “expectations.” They don’t need to win the actual vote to come out a winner in the ‘expectations” game. Indeed, anything North of 20% of the actual vote for any of them qualifies as beating expectations. We’ll see if any of them do so tomorrow night.  

  • Dan Sullivan

    He is relying on 25 years of being around and a little help from his dad to carry him across the goal line. If it weren’t for the diluted tea, this might have been a contest. All would have the makings of a classic tragedy if he were at all a sympatheic character. Instead, he’s remains pathetic.