Jonathan Martin explains Mitt Romney's strategy to win the GOP nomination:
the former Massachusetts governor’s aim, according to multiple aides and advisers, is to exceed expectations his team is working feverishly to lower in Iowa, to come back strong with a win in New Hampshire, to survive South Carolina in part by picking up an off-setting victory in Nevada and then to settle in for what many described as “a slog” that they’ll emerge from thanks to superior money and organization.
Mike Crowley doesn't know what to expect:
If you're feverishly working to lower expectations in Iowa, maybe it's not such a good idea to say so? Now a Romney failure to exceed expectations will have been a failure to meet expectations based on the idea that the expectations should be higher than Romney wants us to think they are. Or so I expect.
The expectations game is one of the most ludicrous philosophical rabbit holes of horse race journalism. It's a complete triumph of perception over reality, to the point where, as Martin explain, Romney is avoiding travel to Iowa out of the (largely correct) belief that doing so will cause the media to not discount a poor showing there. Meanwhile he's simultaneously attempting to convince reporters that he will do badly in Iowa, and that he will do better than they expect. And this is all considered normal!