Required skimming: how campaigns work

Learn how the wonks view the horse race

This month, CJR presents “Required Skimming,” a daily miniguide to our staffers’ beats and obsessions, ranging from finance to food. If we overlooked any of your must-read destinations, please tell us in the comments.

• Jonathan Bernstein (@jbplainblog): At his own site and in contributions to The Washington Post’s Plum Line and Post Partisan blogs, this political scientist unpacks what matters and what doesn’t in the political cycle in an impressively un-wonky way—while also spotlighting both strong reporting and commentary from like-minded sources, such as the excellent group blog The Monkey Cage (@monkeycageblog).

• Dave Weigel (@daveweigel): His Twitter persona may be a little much for some readers, but Slate’s political reporter brings a gimlet-eyed and startlingly prolific look at how campaigns rally their supporters and work the media. He also reads seemingly everyone, links generously, and is an astute press critic.

• Sasha Issenberg, (@victorylab): After Issenberg’s much-buzzed-about (though not yet published) book on Rick Perry’s research-informed approach to campaigning started making waves, Perry promptly flopped on the national stage. Issenberg, now a writer at Slate, hasn’t. His columns aren’t especially frequent, but if you want to understand how campaigns are adapting to the era of Big Data, social media, and all things digital, they’re a must-read.

• Mark Blumenthal (@mysterypollster): The founder now plies his trade at The Huffington Post, where he and his team offer indispensable, interactive polling averages and smart takes on the polling controversies du jour; his collaboration with the hyperlocal megasite on the “Power Outsiders” survey brought a creative approach to covering the 2012 Republican primary. Add Blumenthal’s co-creator, Charles Franklin (@pollsandvotes), to your Twitter feed.

• FiveThirtyEight (@fivethirtyeight): Scores of political junkies obsessively checked Nate Silver’s stats-minded site for the latest polling fluctuations and election forecasts during the 2008 campaign, and The New York Times—which swallowed up the operation in 2010 and gave a boost to Silver’s already-impressive feel for graphics and data display—is no doubt counting on a nice boost in pageviews as Election Day nears. But look past the headline attraction, and you’ll see Silver’s sharp looks at the effect of voter ID laws or how swing states differ, plus contributor Micah Cohen’s smart “Presidential Geography” series.

• Others to follow: For more data-minded analysis of the horse race, a pair of up-and-comers: The New Republic’s Nate Cohen Cohn (@electionate) and the Guardian’s Harry Enten (@forecasterenten). And for granular reporting of everything happening on the campaign trail, Politico’s peripatetic duo of Alex Burns (@aburnspolitico) and Maggie Haberman (@maggiepolitico).

Correction: The original version of this post misspelled the last name of New Republic writer Nate Cohn. CJR regrets the error.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx. Tags: