Can Wikipedia predict who Mitt Romney will choose as his vice presidential running mate?
If the last presidential election is any indication, yes.
As the Washington Post noted back in 2008, Sarah Palin's Wikipedia page was updated 68 times in the days just before Republican John McCain announced her as his running mate. Tellingly, the Arizona senator's page was also updated and tweaked by the same people who were adding details to Palin's page.
While Palin was a virtual unknown outside Alaska, another contender in 2008 and 2012, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, also got lots of attention on his Wiki entry four years ago. Editors back then suddenly got interested in him on August 28 -- the day before McCain announced his pick -- when they made 54 changes to his bio.
Yet, in what might have been a key tip-off, there apparently was little overlap between those people editing Pawlenty and McCain entries, Terry Gudaiti of the Internet monitoring company Cyveillance told the Post.
Darker horse candidates got lesser attention from Wiki editors in 2008. Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was edited about two dozen times during the run-up to McCain's selection. As for Romney -- whom McCain reportedly rejected because of his wealth -- his page was edited a mere 17 times in the five days prior to the veep announcement.
Similarly, Joe Biden's Wiki page was changed at least 111 times before Barack Obama announced the veteran Delaware senator as his running mate.
On August 22nd, the day before the Obama campaign officially named Biden as the veep pick, Biden's Wiki page garnered roughly 40 changes. Over the five days prior, users would make at least 111 other changes to his entry.
The stepped-up activity isn't surprising. Campaigns are keen to scrub any embarrassing or incorrect information from the Internet, especially from the online encyclopedia that is notorious for containing lies and less-than-reliable information that could be catnip for unscrupulous journalists.
Still, could political junkies discern who Romney will choose in 2012 based on Wikipedia activity?
Don't count on it, writes Micah Sifry at Tech President. He writes that none of the pages belonging to current favorites to join Romney on the GOP ticket --Pawlenty, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Jersy Gov. Chris Christie or New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte -- are "showing anything like the spike in edits that Cyveillance spotted on Palin and Biden's pages back in 2008."
Given the way Wikipedia edits were — post-facto — the tip-off to the VP picks four years ago, it's likely that we won't see the same kind of last-minute activity. You might be better off scouring obscure aviation web sites for postings from mechanics spotting new decals being painted on Romney's campaign plane.