1. The GOP is lowering expectations. They refer to the divided country, the money raised by the Democrats and the tough race ahead. This is what Team W has always done so well -- by lowering expectations, they set up a world in which it's easier for him to succeed. Even his recent ads fit the theme of emphasizing that he was dropped into a losing proposition.
The problem with this: by letting Gillespie amiably lower expectations, we let him defuse the truly salient critiques of an administration that is failing, day in and day out. The race will be close not because all races are close, but because Bush's policies are chasing more and more Americans out of his camp.
That's the follow-up point that Stewart, and all of us, need to keep hammering home.
This was a frustrating feature of the analysis of the 2000 debates. The GOP had so successfully lowered expectations about Dubya's performance that, if he managed not to drool on camera, he was given a passing grade.
Proposed talking points: "you don't grade the president on a curve" or "beating the spread does not qualify one to be president".