The expectations game helps Bachmann, hurts Cain

To the extent that Bachmann was known before Monday night, it's been as a folk hero amongst the Tea Party contingent, and among progressives who follow politics, as part of the wing-nut brigade in the Republican party.

But though Bachmann was hardly flawless, the expectations for her, as such as there were any, were at a pretty low baseline, a baseline that the Minnesota Congresswoman blew away with her performance, beginning with her unorthodox (but perfectly acceptable) use of CNN prime-time air to announce that she's now in as an official candidate for the nomination.

The overnight conversion of acceptance of Bachmann as a bona fide candidate has been most manifest on the network where she's been only mocked for the most part - MSNBC, where Andrea Mitchell came on Morning Joe on Wednesday to boast of her showing - a sure recognition that the establishment is coming around to her.

But let's face it - other than Dick Morris, there haven't been any political commentators talking about her with any reverence before Monday night- except to compare her to Sarah Palin about who could gather the Mama Grizzly audience.

Now she's on the cover of USA Today. But as that story reports, with higher expectations comes more thorough scrutiny.

How will she play with a little 'lamestream' attention, as Ms. Palin would say, if not downright love from the establishment press organs that help produce "conventional wisdom"?

Meanwhile, another Tea Party fave, businessman Herman Cain, was able to use the low expectations (or really, virtually no expectations) going into the first Republican presidential debate in March on Fox News to become the unexpected winner of that event.

Yet come Monday night, most conservative bloggers and analysts were writing that Cain's performance was nothing to get excited about. Had he changed that much? Perhaps, or perhaps he stood a little less impressive next to Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich, as opposed to just Gary Johnson and Ron Paul in the first debate.

Getting back to Super 8, the obvious attachment of Spielberg as producer raised the expectation game that somehow this film, which does have elements of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Poltergeist, and actually Spielberg's last big scary action film, 2005's War of the Worlds - could become this generation's cultural lodestar.

Then again, the idea audience for this film are the people of Abrams and my generation who came of age seeing those Spielberg classics in the late 70's and early 80's - the teen to early twenties crowd. And for them, perhaps this is their ET.

Whatever. Maybe if the film had been released with a little less pomp and circumstance, it could have surprised us, delighted us, and became a breakout hit. It still may do so, but in life, expectations sometimes enhance or depress our reactions, even thought the object, or personality, is just doing their thing.


Have you seen the new hyped film of the summer, Super 8? The J.J. Abrams directed, Steven Spielberg produced Hollywood confection that has some folks - like Time magazine film critic Richard Corliss exclaiming that it's "the year's most thrilling and feeling mainstream movie."

Couple that with a friend's tweet over the weekend that not only was this the pic of the summer, but perhaps of the year, and well, you're setting up some mighty big expectations.

Alas, CL readers, after my viewing of the film I can only say of J.J. Abrams, you're no Steven Spielberg.

Which leads us to the cases of Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain, two Tea Party aligned Republicans who are trending in opposite directions after Monday night's GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire.

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