It begins around 7 AM with the arrival of The Playbook, Mike Allen’s insider email on the political stories that are driving the news cycle. Minutes later, The Note arrives with the ABC News version of the same. Last to hit my inbox–– but no less reliable––is Mark Halperin’s The Page, a digest of upcoming stories he prepares every morning for the readers of Time.
The newspapers, those anachronistic bundles of paper and advertisements, don’t land on my doorstep until around 8. Although I’ve read most of the political stories online, there’s something comforting about pouring a cup of coffee, snapping open the broadsheet and listening to Morning Joe Scarborough on MSNBC while I read the print version. It’s kind of like the old days, like when you went out on the campaign trail to see what was going on yourself. But that’s not in the cards this year, so I’m counting on my tweeple out there to do the job for me.
I try not to check my Twitter account too early, but it’s only a click away. The first postings always come from the insomniacs who, on Monday mornings, seem inordinately obsessed by how their football team did the night before. By 9 AM, the 75 reporters, handlers and handicappers I’ve chosen to follow through the campaign have begun logging in, opening the spigot on a steady stream of commentary from themselves and others that will continue through the day.
The first tweet of substance comes from @PostPolitics and has the results of the latest ABC/Washington Post poll. It shows Mitt Romney leading Newt Gingrich nationwide 39% to 23%, but losing a head to head match-up with President Obama, 51% to 45%. Within the hour, the Romney camp will issue its own tweet disputing the methodology of the polling, but the cat is out of the bag and bouncing all over Twitterland.
From @Karl Rove comes a tweet charging Chrysler’s “Second Half in America” Superbowl commercial was little more than an in-kind contribution to the Obama campaign. There’s a tweet from @Newt2012HQ reminding Gingrich supporters today is Ronald Reagan’s 101st birthday. And there’s another from the Romney camp (retweeted by @David Axelrod) noting that Tim Pawlenty will be holding a telephone conference call for reporters this morning to discuss Rick Santorum’s pork barrel politics.
Politics From The Twitter Firehose
Breezing down the TweetDeck, I come across a link to an article by Ben Smith on Buzzfeed.com titled “Politics From the Twitter Firehose.” In it, Smith boldly proclaims “Twitter has become political reporters’ and junkies front page: It’s faster and more comprehensive than any wire service or website, because it includes them all, along with the voices of newsmakers and reporters who make and break news there before it hits the old web.”
Smith knows whereof he speaks. He is the young reporter who pioneered live blogging for Politico and recently launched Buzzfeed.com to tap into the Twitterland fascination with breaking political news. To illustrate his point, he provides a tick-tock account of what happened last Friday when one of his reporters, Rosie Gray, posted a “scoop” on Buzzfeed about Rick Santorum failing to get enough signatures for the Indiana ballot.
The article was posted at 2:21 PM, and tweeted out by Smith and Gray moments later. Inside of 30 minutes, three reporters picked up on the story, and countless others retweeted it to their fans. By late afternoon, Santorum himself addressed the problem at a press conference. By the time ABC reported it on their blog at 7:20 PM, all mention of Buzzfeed’s scoop was gone. “I am not typically a whiner about credit,” Smith grumbled in an email ABC’s Shushannah Walshe, “but since we are relatively new to the game . . . I wonder if you could add a link noting that this was Rosie’s scoop.”
But his larger point, he wrote in the piece, was to recognize “as Twitter displaces the old, authoritative tally of presidential politics — one that used to run on the wire, and which in 2008 was seized by blogs and fast-moving websites — we’re losing our ability to keep track. Blink — or get up to go to lunch, or look away from TweetDeck for a conversation — and you can miss a whole news cycle of scoop and reaction, joke and outrage. One feature of this: A midsize scoop can now “break” several times in a day, as different outlets simply miss the others’ work.”
I’m Missing Rush, Drudge Fills In
Jeez, it’s 11 AM already. I’ve been so engrossed in keeping up with my Twitter feeds I only now realize I’m totally missing Rush Limbaugh! Rush hasn’t been on my media radar for some time now, but this year I’m trying to rectify that because of his influence on the Republican race. In the new Pew Research Center study on politics and the press, Tea Party members overwhelmingly cite Fox News and radio commentators (Rush being the heavy favorite) as their main source of campaign news. Today, however, when I dial in WLS-radio, Rush appears to be taking the day off. National Review columnist Mark Steyn is filling in. So I flip over to my other favorite Republican site, The Drudge Report.
It has been almost 15 years since Matt Drudge inserted himself in the national political conversation with his report of a certain “blue stained dress” worn by Monica Lewinsky during her encounters with President Clinton. His eye for scandal and wide-ranging links to obscure news stories made him the first of many successful Internet news aggregators. Although he has cut back his staff to two full-time assistants, his influence is no less significant today. His website draws 1.5 million visitors a day and drives twice as much traffic to featured stories as Facebook and Twitter combined.
Drudge’s favorite target this year is President Obama, but he’s not above picking sides in the Republican primary campaign. A few weeks ago, his front page featured no less than six links to stories trashing Newt Gingrich’s tenure as Speaker of the House. (Drudge is said to be a close friend of Romney campaign manager Matt Rhodes.) Today, one of Drudge’s links is a story about Gingrich’s campaign manager doctoring his Wikipedia account to remove references to his three marriages. Another has conservative Dick Armey telling CNN that Newt has lost his magic touch. Yet another reports Gingrich has given up on making the Virginia ballot. The drumbeat of antagonistic stories from Drudge is relentless (especially, when it comes to President Obama), but it’s fun to see how he’s going to stick in the knife every new day.
New York Times on the Move
I had to run some errands––a guy’s head could explode with all this breaking political news––and found myself waiting in line to pick up a prescription at Walgreen’s. What a perfect time to check out the new New York Times Election App on my iPhone. The app offers four categories of news, opinion, election facts and multimedia (i.e. video). It’s not much different from other news aggregating apps. The opinions are weighted toward the Times own columnists, but the news comes from a variety of sources, and the election guide includes a handy summary of the latest polls and past primary results.
When I clicked on “Gingrich’s Detailed Plan To Carry On,” it pulled up a Washington Post report on Gingrich’s weekend retreat at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. All day Saturday, the Post reported, Gingrich came and went as his staff outlined plans to target Georgia and Tennessee on Super Tuesday (March 6) and Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri and Louisiana later in the month. There wasn’t much news in the fact Gingrich wants to raise more money and schedule more debates in March, but the reporter did notice a white board in the corner of the room where participants would write all the different ways Gingrich could call Romney a liar, which I thought was a nifty little detail.
White House Response
When I got home, my email had the transcript of Jay Carney’s White House press briefing. Sure enough, amid the questions about the crackdown on demonstrators in Syria and Israel’s plans to attack Iran, there was a question about Clint Eastwood’s ad on the Superbowl.
Question: Do you consider it an in-kind contribution from Clint Eastwood?
Carney: I mean, the answer to your question, Roger, is no. The ad points out, I think, what is significant — a company that has rebounded obviously wants to sell more cars, and that’s what advertising is about. But it does point out a simple fact, which is that the automobile industry in this country was on its back, and potentially poised to liquidate three years ago, and this President made decisions that were not very popular at the time that were guided by two important principles: One, that he should do what he could to ensure that 1 million jobs would not be lost; and two, that the American automobile industry should be able to thrive globally if the right conditions were created, and that included the kinds of reforms and restructuring that Chrysler and GM undertook in exchange for the assistance from the American taxpayer.
The Situation Room
It’s 4 PM. Time for The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on CNN. Not much to report. (There usually isn’t.) CNN correspondents are out in the field with the candidates in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, but no amount of prodding will get them to predict Tuesday’s caucus results. Back in the studio, Gloria Borger is rehashing the Washington Post/ABC poll. Donna Brazille and Mary Matalin, meanwhile, are getting ready to chew over Karl Rove’s criticism of the Superbowl ad as part of their paid gig as political analysts.
It’s all pretty thin gruel. But I watch because America watches. The same Pew study that showed Tea Party followers watch Fox News reported 36 percent of all Americans consider cable news their primary source of campaign news. That’s 40 percent more than cite either the Internet or broadcast TV News as their primary source.
Another quick flip of the channel hopper to the nightly newscasts explains why. Since I was a boy, I’ve always considered the network news operations of ABC, CBS and NBC the creme do la creme of journalism. Even reduced to 22 minutes (with commercials), the Evening News broadcasts are no less serious or authoritative than they’ve ever been. They lead with footage showing mayhem in the streets of Syria––footage acquired by journalists who risked their lives getting it. Some feature investigative reports, others have health care segments. All have comprehensive reports about breaking news – from reporters who are on the scene to report it.
But when the topic turns to politics, the end of day report feels like deja vu. It’s all just warmed over pictures that have flounced around the Internet all day or factoids that survived a day in the Twitter meat grinder. Jake Tapper’s report on ABC about their own political poll results breaks no new ground on what he reported earlier on @jaketapper. And that “controversial” Clint Eastwood commercial now seems, oh, so five minutes ago. Is it The News? Or is it me? Am I too consumed with gorging on this banquet of political news served up across the Internet?
I turn the TV off for dinner and take one last glance at the Twitter feed. The night snarks are coming out in the East, but my day as a political couch potato is over. I have to rest up for Election Night tomorrow.