The Romney campaign has been telegraphing that Mitt has been practicing zingers for the last two months. This brings to mind lessons from macro.
According to the Friedman/Lucas theory of monetary policy, money supply changes are only effective if they are unexpected. If they are expected, then nominal wages adjust to compensate for inflation so there is no change in the real wage and hence unemployment remains at the “natural rate” or the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment (NAIRU). But an unexpected increase in the money supply leads to surprise inflation, a decrease in the real wage and less unemployment. An unexpected decrease in the money supply leads to surprise deflation, an increase in the real wage and more unemployment. This is the expectations augmented Philips’ curve if I remember my macro correctly. And so it goes with zingers.
If Mitt’s zingers are unexpected, the audience responds with a better opinion of Mitt. If Mitt meets expectations, then there is no gain on net because there is no surprise. If he delivers fewer zingers than expected, then the audience is disappointed. (I believe Jeff, Emir Kamenica and Alex Frankel are working on a model of this sort of thing. Hopefully, the model can easily be extended to offer a theory of zingers.)
So, the campaign has deliberately set a high “natural rate” of zingers (NRZ) for Mitt. Then, Mitt definitely has to deliver zingers to meet the NRZ to avoid deflation and really he should deliver a huge amount so he exceeds NRZ. The Romney campaign should have downplayed zingers and Mitt’s NRZ, so their man is under less pressure. In fact, that is what the Obama team has been doing for their candidate.
There is the possibility that the Romney team was bluffing to scare the Obama team or to focus their attention on zinger defense rather than answers to real issues of jobs, foreign policy etc. But such a strategy is not costless because zingers are graded on an expectations augmented zinger curve.