The Boys and Girls on the Bus
Friday March 9, 2012
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Mitt Romney won Super Tuesday. He won Super Tuesday in grand fashion, winning 6 of the 10 states in play and getting (according to the Associated Press) 212 of the 390 delegates that were awarded Tuesday. That is about 54 percent of available delegates.
There are different totals for who has how many delegates because … well, just because … but we'll use the AP's numbers because if you don't agree with them don't call me. As an example each state gets three delegates (members of the Republican National Committee) who are free to vote for whomever they wish.
Rick Santorum won 84 delegates on Super Tuesday (about 22 percent of the delegates up for grabs), Newt Gingrich won 72 (18 percent) and Ron Paul won 22 (six percent).
Romney did VERY well in the delegate contests (about two-and-a-half times Santorum's total. He did VERY well in the States-won contest (twice as many as Santorum). And he got VERY little credit for having expanded his lead over Santorum from +110 prior to Super Tuesday to +239 after Super Tuesday.
Why? Why so little credit? It was all a matter of timing.
As I Tweeted yesterday (you can follow me at @richgalen)
"If everything that happened after 11 pm Tues night had happened by 9:30 pm would it have been a great night for Romney?"
In 1972, Timothy Crouse, a writer for the Rolling Stone magazine, wrote a book titled, "The Boys on the Bus" which described life among the press corps on a national political campaign.
This was Richard Nixon v George McGovern.
Almost nothing - other than the bus - is the same in 2012 as it was 40 years earlier, including the bus being a boys club. And it's been about that long since I read it, but I remember a segment in which Crouse wrote about pack journalism.
As I remember it, he wrote that it was almost impossible for a reporter to send in something which was not in line with what everyone else was filing. An editor would wonder why everyone was writing "A" and his reporter was writing "B." All too often the reporter would refile looking for some minor variant on "A."
After reading "The Boys on the Bus" I came up with the theory that any time a reporter writes, "observers here say …" it means he or she was sitting at the bar and heard some other reporter say something smart.
In 2012 the "bus" is Twitter. Once the Twitter-bus settles on a theme it is as difficult to alter today as it was in 1972.
At 11 pm Eastern, on Tuesday night the Twitter-bus had determined that Romney not only did not have a great evening, but had barely survived.
By the time the facts to the contrary became available the Twitter-bus had left the terminal.
In 1972 we were still 10 years away from the FCC approving the first frequencies for a modern cellular network.
Reporters generally filed once a day, usual early afternoon during a formal "filing time" during which the campaign stood down and reporters sat in a local high school gym typing their stories on portable typewriters and calling their stories into their home office over a telephone line which had been installed by AT&T (or its local affiliate) sometimes just minutes before the campaign rolled in.
In those days, if a campaign wanted to make news it had to do it by about two in the afternoon. In the modern Twitter-bus era, campaigns hold a little something back until about five so everyone has something new to put up on their Twitter feed (and send into their publication) before they go to dinner.
Back in the day, reporters smoked on the bus, ate red meat at dinner, and drank hard liquor at the bar.
Today the few reporters who still smoke walk far away from the bus, order salads and veggie dinners, and drink white wine or club soda.
The times have changed, but the pack journalism ethic is still strong.
The boys and girls on the bus don't need to be told by their editors what everyone else is writing.
They can just climb aboard the Twitter-bus and read for themselves.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the CNN delegate count and to the Wikipedia entry for the "Boys on the Bus." Also a pretty nice Mullfoto showing yesterday's windy conditions and a Catchy Caption of the Day showing an Iranian nuclear facility.
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