Everybody loves a winner?

I'm not sure the old saying "everbody loves a winner" always applies to political winners. I think it might have more to do with the fact that in politics people love underdogs, and distrust "winners" when they display too much arrogance. (Nobody likes sore losers, but sore winners are unbearable.)

In an earlier post, M. Simon observed that the Democrats are setting themselves up for defeat, and noted that "when people get panicked they often do the wrong thing." That is absolutely right.

An observation by a commenter, though -- "I'm still waiting for the Republican Party to screw this up" -- reminded me of another principle.

When people get overconfident they often do the wrong thing.

That's because human nature being what it is, overconfidence leads to a feeling of unaccountability. The anticipation of victory leads to a similar feeling to that produced by actual victory. Once a battle or struggle is over, it is natural to relax your guard.

The Democrats have gone from the overconfident state to a state of incipient panic, while the Republicans have been the underdogs until very recently. The election is still six weeks away (I typed "sex weeks"; did my Freudian slip show?), and my worry is that if the public starts to perceive signs of GOP triumphalism -- if Republicans are perceived as relishing their incipient victory (or, worse, gloating) it won't go over well.

But that's just my paranoia. Charles Krauthammer also thinks the Democrats are in a panic state, and he thinks that the stardom timing cycle is favoring the Republicans:

One star fades, another is born. The very next morning McCain picks Sarah Palin and a new celebrity is launched. And in the celebrity game, novelty is trump. With her narrative, her persona, her charisma carrying the McCain campaign to places it has never been and by all logic has no right to be, she's pulling an Obama.

But her job is easier. She only has to remain airborne for seven more weeks. Obama maintained altitude for an astonishing four years. In politics, as in all games, however, it's the finish that counts.

That's true, but in my darker moments I'm inclined to think that the finish is only on the veneer.

posted by Eric on 09.12.08 at 11:16 AM


While the point is well taken--peaking too soon is a definite danger for Republicans--that commenter also said Republican rank and file are undermining the candidates (under Whittles blue plane/red plane metaphor, the blue plane is McCain and the red Obama).

That makes me wonder about the commenter given that Obama is clearly the one undermined by his own supporters.

tim maguire   ·  September 12, 2008 11:49 AM

Dear Fellow Republicans,

Please keep in mind this ancient advice:

"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."

Of course, our ambition is the White House, the House, and the Senate.

Two out of three would be great.

Whitehall   ·  September 12, 2008 7:31 PM

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