Palin!? Thanks for that!

GOP Veepstakes-press lays an egg

As anyone who has slavishly been following the Republican running-mate roil for the last month knew, McCain was destined to pick one of these three men: Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and former Democrat Joe Lieberman.


Well, no. In Dayton, Ohio, just hours ago, John McCain named the little-known Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, as his vice presidential selection.

That whirling sound is the political press doing its best to sleep off its DNC hangover while working the BlackBerries and phones to produce profiles of the person who, save Hillary Clinton, is now the world’s most famous female politician. (Sorry, Nancy.)

It’s a turn on the dime for the great mentioner. This morning, I did a quick LexisNexis search tallying the number of times that some potential picks were mentioned from June 1 through this Wednesday in newspaper and wire service articles, along with the words “vice” and “McCain.”

706 Mitt Romney

519 Tim Pawlenty

486 Joe Lieberman

342 former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge

325 Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

153 former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina

105 Alaska Governor Sarah Palin

86 former E-Bay CEO Meg Whitman

As you can see, Palin is way at the bottom. The pick, wrote Jonathan Martin of The Politico, is “perhaps the most shocking in recent political history.” So how did the political press get this one so wrong?

Reporters writing about the Obama and McCain vice presidential nominations repeatedly mentioned that both camps’ processes were the most opaque ever conducted. That lack of information didn’t stop pundits from offering lists pulled from a combination of reporting, and informed speculation.

Of course things do get out—any time a politician’s staff is needed to pull together vetting documents, there’s an expanding circle where leaks can and do originate.

And those leaks get ink. And Palin didn’t get much. And she’ll be the nominee.

Whoops. And so, today, how many journalists and readers are regretting the time they spent writing and reading about, well, nothing?

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.