US political pundits begin scouring Wikipedia pages for hints over the identity of Mitt Romney's pick for potential Vice President


David Usborne
Wednesday 08 August 2012 18:47

Breathe easy, Donald Trump is not going to be the Republican running mate in the presidential election and has no chance of ever being one heartbeat away from controlling America’s nuclear codes. We know this because his profile on Wikipedia, the encyclopaedia site, hasn’t been touched in weeks.

It used to be that working your sources was the best way to divine who a presidential candidate would eventually invite to join them on their ticket. Thus last week a “top Republican official” told The Independent that Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, had settled on someone we, the media, had not even talked about and that we would know “very, very soon”. Well, that was a week ago. Oh well.

But now we have a whole new means of getting the all-important Veepstakes scoop. Go to the Wikipedia pages of all the possible candidates and see which of them has seen a rash of biographical revisions. The person with the most is your man (or woman), on the assumption that backroom folk in the campaign have been told to tart up that person’s profile in advance of the big public roll-out, due any day now.

If this seems like a stretch consider what happened four years ago. In just the few days before John McCain wowed – or possibly dumbfounded – his supporters by choosing a certain Governor of Alaska as him running mate, her page was altered no fewer than 68 times. If a Wikipedia profile is a candidate’s public curriculum vitae, Sarah Palin’s was apparently in need of some serious polishing and expanding.

A quick leaf through the pages of some of Mr Romney’s supposed shortlist of names by The Independent today would suggest that while Mr Trump is as distant a possibility as Big Bird, the senior Senator from Ohio, Rob Portman, is looking very hot indeed. By 10.36 am, New York time, his Wikipedia page had been twiddled no fewer than fourteen times. Revisions included the upgrading of a mention of his wife, who seemingly would prefer to be known as Jane Dudley Portman rather than just Jane Portman.

Yet, the uncovering of the Wikipedia method of Veep-divining may mean it is already no longer reliable. If the Romney campaign thinks we are tracing Wiki- changes, they will desist from making them. Such is their obsession in keeping the choice secret until the nominee himself is ready to announce it.

“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,” noted Micah Sifry, whose site Tech President tracks digital influences on the race for the White House. “You might be better off scouring obscure aviation web sites for postings from mechanics spotting new decals being painted on Romney's campaign plane”.

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