New Hampshire may fuel media talk of Bloomberg, Biden

Michael Bloomberg in 2010 with possible future running mate. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Michael Bloomberg in 2010 with possible future running mate. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Previously published at WGBHNews.org.

It’s a little after 11 p.m. With the all-important question of whether Jeb Bush will finish third or fourth in New Hampshire still unanswered, allow me to anticipate two names we’re going to be hearing in the days ahead: Michael Bloomberg. And Joe Biden.

In fact, it’s already started. And the results of the first-in-the-nation primary guarantee that it’s only going to intensify.

Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, is the more plausible of the two names given that he’s letting it be known he’s considering an independent run. The New Hampshire results make it more likely, not less, that he’ll keep gearing up for a possible campaign.

Consider what the Democrats did to themselves. Everyone was expecting Bernie Sanders to beat Hillary Clinton. But he handed her such an unexpectedly crushing defeat that she can’t help but emerge as a damaged candidate. She’s still likely to win the nomination as the campaign moves on to states with substantial African-American populations. But she’s looking more vulnerable than ever in November, provided the Republicans manage to choose a nominee who is recognizably of the human species.

Oops. Donald Trump also won big tonight. Although he fell considerably short of a majority, he got about 35 percent of the vote, far ahead of second-place finisher John Kasich. The Iowa winner, Ted Cruz, an extremist much loathed within his own party, was running third, just ahead of Bush. Marco Rubio, who seemed to be emerging as a contender until his circuit board malfunctioned at last Saturday’s debate, faded to fifth.

So the Democrats are stuck with a diminished Hillary Clinton or, less likely, a 74-year-old left-winger who—if conventional wisdom means anything at all anymore—probably could not win a general election. And Trump, detested by a majority of the public, may be on a glide path to the Republican nomination.

Of course, the conventional wisdom also holds that an independent can’t be elected president. But if the Democrats and the Republicans both nominate candidates who are unacceptable to the broad middle of the electorate that decides elections (and yes, I realize that the broad middle is a lot smaller than it used to be), then surely there is an opening for someone like Bloomberg, a moderate with a reputation for competence. Yes, he’s dour, uncharismatic, and has a well-deserved reputation for nanny-statism. But it’s precisely those non-scary qualities that could make him a viable alternative.

And the media are stoking a Bloomberg run. The veteran media critic Jack Shafer wrote for Politico earlier today that “as Bloomberg works his way through the editorial food chain and breaks through the primary election news, I’m certain reporters will be setting themselves on fire to convince their editors to assign them to Bloomberg.”

Count me as someone who thinks Bloomberg might actually be able to defeat Sanders and Trump, if that’s what it comes to.

Which brings me to a Biden candidacy, a far less likely possibility. Unlike Bloomberg, Biden has declared pretty definitively that he wouldn’t enter the race. It’s also too late logistically for him to enter the Democratic primaries.

But Biden would make some theoretical sense if the race between Clinton and Sanders ends in a muddle, or if the email controversy in which Clinton is embroiled leads to legal trouble. In either case, so this line of thinking goes, the Democratic National Convention might turn to a respected non-candidate like Biden as the nominee.

Is this going to happen? Almost certainly not. A brokered convention is a quadrennial fantasy, but it is almost impossible under the modern primary system. Still, if you search Google News for “Biden 2016,” you’ll find that plenty of people are giving the idea some thought.

For my purposes, what matters isn’t what is going to happen. Rather, it’s what you’ll be hearing from the media as the two major parties, suffering from self-inflicted wounds, limp ahead. New Hampshire not only didn’t settle anything. It left us with a race that won’t be settled for some weeks to come.

How the Globe is leveraging social to cover #FITN

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A recent Pindell piece in Medium.

In his recent exhortation to accelerate the transition to digital, Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory singled out — among others — James Pindell, who’s covering the New Hampshire primary (or #FITN, as they say) as a digital-first reporter, “rapidly pushing webbier (sorry) stories that allow the site to look less like a digital reflection of that morning’s and the next morning’s print paper.”

Now Mashable has a close-up look at exactly how Pindell is accomplishing that. Jason Abbruzzese writes that Pindell has embraced a wide range of social media, including Twitter, Instagram, FacebookMedium and — shades of steam-powered presses from the 19th century — an email newsletter. (Not all of this is new. Pindell’s Twitter feed has been a must-read among political junkies for years.) Pindell’s work is gathered at a Globe site called Ground Game.

The approach has allowed Pindell to cover stories that are worth telling even if they’re not quite worthy of (or suitable for) print — such as his first-person account of covering Donald Trump and his hair during Trump’s recent foray into New Hampshire.

The idea, Abbruzzese reports, is to leverage Pindell’s coverage of across a variety of platforms in order to compete with national outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post:

“We’re putting him out there deliberately in a very focused way saying, ‘This is our guy. This is the face of our coverage,'” says David Skok, digital adviser at the Globe, who helped form their strategy of pushing content out on social platforms via a single, recognizable reporter.

The strategy also fits with the Globe’s embrace of digital verticals such as Crux, which covers “all things Catholic”; BetaBoston, which follows tech and innovation; and more that I’ve heard are in the works.

Alas, as smart a move as Ground Game may be journalistically, it’s unclear, as always, how it will make money. From the Mashable piece:

The main question dogging media organizations that want to embrace this strategy of social publishing is how it affects their bottom line. Reaching more people is great, but the benefits are quickly offset if it comes at the behest of revenue.

Skok said that Pindell’s work outside of the Globe did not have direct monetization opportunities yet, but that the broader impact would hopefully attract advertisers that want to be associated with the paper’s authoritative coverage.

The folks at the Globe deserve a lot of credit for understanding the value of pushing ahead anyway.