Politico’s E-Book Had Only One Short Section On Santorum

Thanks to a gift of a Kindle Touch from my mother this Christmas, I recently read Politico’s first e-book, The Right Fight Back, which came out roughly a month before last night’s Iowa caucuses that saw Sen. Rick Santorum effectively fight presumed frontrunner and nominee Mitt Romney to a draw.

The e-book, written by Mike Allen and Evan Thomas, largely agrees with the assumptions about Romney’s eventual success. In their introduction, Allen and Thomas wrote of Romney’s opponents rising and falling while his campaign appears “built to last.” Despite no caucus and primary votes having been cast when the book was released, the authors used the past tense to describe the plight of Romney’s challengers: “The swashbuckling Perry team misjudged their man and the moment at every turn, and the also-rans didn’t have what it takes.” They concluded, again before any votes had been cast, that “When Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie got out, Romney essentially had the nomination and big Republicans were left pining for what might have been.” Discussing the prospects of an Obama-Romney general election, Allen and Thomas wrote of it with certainty, saying that it “will be almost a mechanical effort to turn out voters.”

Now, I’ve thought for a while that Romney will be the eventual nominee and I agree with Nate Silver that last night’s results mean that “Romney’s chances of becoming president are a little higher than they were 24 hours ago, quite a bit higher than they were 24 days ago, and much higher than they were 24 months ago, when he was one of among dozens of potential aspirants to the nomination.” At the same time, Santorum’s late surge surprised almost everyone and should serve as a reminder that while common sense or the fundamentals suggest a Romney win, they don’t guarantee one. Santorum may very well fall back to Earth like so many others have in this race, especially since he appears to have put so much organizational effort into just the caucuses, but journalists can’t just assume that will happen.

The Politico e-book is a good example of why these assumptions can be bad from a journalistic perspective.

Pretty much everyone except Santorum and the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin assumed Santorum would never make his way to the front of the pack and the media coverage reflected this. From May 2 through October 9, Santorum was prominent in only 2% of all the campaign stories, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. As is to be expected this low level of coverage reflected his place in the polls, but as Pew noted, “very little of Santorum’s coverage indicated that he would find a path to the Republican nomination.” With journalists assuming he had no chance, they concluded he wasn’t worth expending resources and air time on.

In Allen and Thomas’s e-book, Santorum only had one very short section dedicated to him (starting at location 831 and ending at location 837 on my Kindle) that included an anecdote about him running into Time’s Joe Klein at a bar in Corning, IA. Allen and Thomas also revealed that Santorum relaxes by playing Fantasy League Baseball. That’s all they have on him in the e-book, at least according to a search for Santorum’s name.

Romney is still likely to win (he’s at 80.9 percent on Intrade as I write), but the certainty of that assumption seems to have led Allen and Thomas to give short shrift to Romney’s greatest challenger in the first round of voting in the 2012 Republican primary. Readers who paid $2.99 to read their insider tale of the GOP nomination process probably would have appreciated some background on Santorum’s campaign. I’d wager that Santorum will get more than two or so paragraphs in the next edition of Politico’s campaign e-books.

UPDATE: To be fair, the anecdote of Santorum seeing Joe Klein at the bar does include a quote from an Iowan saying he would vote for Santorum because he was willing to come  to Corning, which does at least hint at the effort Santorum was putting into the state. That said, it was just a hint.

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One Response to Politico’s E-Book Had Only One Short Section On Santorum

  1. Pingback: Visualizing Mitt Romney’s Change In Strategy | Component Parts

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