08/22/2008 06:11 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why It's Taking So Long

So I went off the the beach with spouse and kids a few hours ago ("vacation," remember?), assuming that I'd come back to news on Obama's running mate. But as of the moment I clicked "publish" on this entry, nothing had been announced.

The reason a lot of us assume the announcement is imminent is the report that has been airing on CNN all day that a "highly placed Democratic source" who says Obama "called some people on his shortlist for the vice presidential slot Thursday night to tell them he had not selected them as a running mate." Usually, when the phone calls start, the news leaks out almost immediately.

My colleague Marc Ambinder confirms that Obama has called some "who were vetted by didn't quite make it." He adds: "Maybe these aren't the short-listers. Maybe these are the long-listers."

"What the hell is taking so long," Noam Scheiber asks? In retrospect, I think the reasons for the timing seem obvious to me. The slow drip of "news" is entirely consistent with maximizing response to their "Be the First To Know" email/text message campaign.

Think about it: The week starts with a leak to the New York Times generating a front page story that tells us:

Senator Barack Obama has all but settled on his choice for a running mate and set an elaborate rollout plan for his decision, beginning with an early morning alert to supporters, perhaps as soon as Wednesday morning, aides said.

Somehow, Matt Drudge hears about the article the day before and gives the news the full Drudge treatment. Meanwhile, the Obama campaign runs banner ads on web sites all over the Internet promoting the email text message alerts. Then after days of speculation, Obama confirms yesterday that he has made a decision. Today his campaign confirms to reporters that some potential running mates have been called. And nearly every story features some reference to the fact that the campaign will share its news via email or text messaging.

Coincidence? I think not.

PS: One of Marc Ambinder's readers points out the irony of CNN "begging viewers to stay tuned so CNN can bring them coverage of a text message." Another "triumph of new media" is the timing itself: Major campaign news timed not for the evening news, but (perhaps) for prime text messaging time.

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