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QUIZ: Hilary Rosen Kerfuffle Means: A) Nothing; B) Less Than Nothing; C) Doodlysquat To Election

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Pictured: Ann Romney, who is mad at Hilary Rosen for the next 48 hours or so.
Pictured: Ann Romney, who is mad at Hilary Rosen for the next 48 hours or so.

So let me catch you up on what's been happening over the past 12 hours in the life of our always hyper-cogent political discourse. Hilary Rosen, a "Democratic strategist" and one-time staff contributor to this website, was on one of those panels that CNN stages at all hours of the day in order to stave off brain death, and she said Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, "has actually never worked a day in her life ... she's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing." That prompted Ann Romney to join Twitter or something and start warblogging, prompting a flurry of clarifications and counter-statements and whatnot, culminating in an appearance on Fox News this morning, when Ann Romney basically said that people should vote for her husband.

This would obviously be a real setback to Hilary Rosen's campaign, if she were in a campaign or affiliated with a campaign, which she's not. But that won't stop it from being some sort of "Election 2012" thing. Romney surrogates are already on conference calls with reporters, pretending that Rosen is an official administration spokeswoman. The Obama campaign has already had to go to the trouble of distancing themselves from the remarks of somebody from whom they were already at a great, yawning distance. (Maybe the Obama campaign will hire Rosen, just so they can fire her?) The DNC, which has arguably closer ties to Rosen, have disowned her as well.

Washington, D.C.-area commuters are advised that all buses have been rerouted today to drive over Hilary Rosen, by order of the Democratic National Committee, so expect service delays.

The question is, will this "impact" the election? Will it "move the needle"? Will it be a "game changer"? Well, let me check real quick -- ahh ... okay, here we go: it says here that the presidential election will be decided by whoever takes a majority of electoral votes. So, I'm guessing ... no?

But who wins and who loses? Well, today, every time Mitt Romney or someone affiliated with his campaign has to take a question on this, it will cost them an opportunity to talk about issues like the economy or unemployment. But this matter should burn itself off in the next 48 hours, so the total sum risk to anyone is maybe a portion of one news cycle.

Let's recall, as well, that after many days were spent dinging Romney on Eric Fehrnstrom's Etch A Sketch line, it turned out that whole meme went largely unnoticed by the general populace. If "Etch A Sketch" didn't matter, then Hilary Rosen will matter even less, and a week from now the only people who will even remember it will all reside inside the Beltway.

Hey, don't take my word for it, though. Here is Jonathan Bernstein, best known for writing "A Plain Blog About Politics," offering "a quick guide to what does and doesn't matter to the outcome of campaigns."

Political scientists have had a long argument about whether anything in campaigns matters to general election results. That argument has mostly been won by those who have demonstrated that campaigns can have some effect in November. But still: Whole campaigns, including everything from door-to-door electioneering to millions of dollars of TV ads to all those rallies with the bunting and the speeches and the music -- all of that probably moves the needle a few percentage points.

That's very important, no doubt, in a close race! But it also places everything in context. If debates rarely affect the results at all; if vice-presidents rarely affect the results beyond perhaps a small boost in their home state; if perceptions of the candidates' personality may not matter at all; then what are the chances that a silly flap about what some talking head said in April will have any effect whatsoever? The first rule: Basically ignore the back-and-forth.

Bernstein offers a lot more insight on the importance of campaign promises (they actually aren't empty gestures) and polls (they are starting to matter now) and external news events (if, say, the entire economy collapses in August, it may actually matter to the people) and what you should watch and what you shouldn't. Pointedly not included in his list? Things that people say while speaking extemporaneously on CNN panels.

Which makes sense. Why should some CNN pundit panel matter to an election? CNN's pundit panels aren't even capable of generating good ratings for CNN.

UPDATE: Greg Sargent has a statement from CNN:

Hilary Rosen, like all CNN contributors, is not a paid advisor to any political party or presidential campaign.

Just keep that in mind, because tying Rosen to Democrats is a matter that takes a lot of squinty effort and a willingness to indulge in some Kremlinological conspiracy theorizing: "But...but...but...Anita Dunn is a paid advisor to the White House, and she also works at SDK Knickerbocker...and that means something, right?" Sargent also talked to SDK Knickerbocker: "But SKD also confirms that Rosen is not an adviser to the DNC or the Obama campaign.:

Sargent goes on:

Now, presumably some on the right will argue that Rosen may be an unpaid adviser to Obama and/or Dems. But that doesn’t even appear to be the case, and at any rate, anyone being honest about this will tell you that in this town, the category of “unpaid adviser” is borderline meaningless.

Ha ha, yes. Everyone in this city believes themselves to be, at the very least, a temporarily unheeded unpaid adviser to somebody important. And it's within this exclusive cohort that this issue will have any salience after tomorrow.

READ THE WHOLE THING:
Ignore Hilary Rosen flap and focus on what really matters [Jonathan Bernstein @ The Plum Line]

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