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Can Paying Attention to Wikipedia Updates Tell Us Who Romney's VP Pick Will Be?


"In the Internet age, vetting includes not only a rigorous look at a candidate's past, but rigorous editing of his or her public record."

(Photo: Getty Images)

The politically-savvy each have their own theories about who Mitt Romney will pick for his running-mate.  Some say he will go for a candidate with charisma and a firm record of conservatism to energize the base; others say he will do the opposite, for fear of being outshone.  Will he go for a Rubio, or a Pawlenty?

Tech President's Micah Sifry notes that perhaps more accurate than all the associated strategists and advisers -- except for those who are already in the know -- is Wikipedia.

Sifry writes:

Sarah Palin's Wikipedia page was updated at least 68 times the day before John McCain announced her selection, with another 54 changes made in the five previous days previous...The same burst of last-minute editing appeared on Joe Biden's Wikipedia page...

None of Wikipedia entries for the current candidates being bandied about by Romney-watchers — Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Kelly Ayotte or Pawlenty — are currently showing anything like the spike in edits that Cyveillance spotted on Palin and Biden's pages back in 2008. But most of those came in the 24 hours prior to the official announcement. That said, if Wikipedia changes offer any hint of what's coming, then today [Monday] might be a good day to bet on Ryan...

Here is a graph of how the Wikipedia edits broke down as of Monday:

Politico's Dylan Byers explained: "In the Internet age, vetting includes not only a rigorous look at a candidate's past, but rigorous editing of his or her public record. It's a simple but oft overlooked point. Kudos to Sifry for keeping it in mind."

But since the theory became more widely-recognized, a flurry of editing occurred on the potential candidate's Wikipedia pages.  NPR grabbed a list of the updated changes, as of today:

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman's Wiki page has been revised 16 times so far today, by someone called "River8009."

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's Wiki page has been revised nine times so far today and 11 times from Aug. 2-6.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's Wiki page has been tweaked four times today.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's Wiki page has been edited once today, and 11 times from Aug. 2-6.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's Wiki page hasn't been edited today, but was revised eight times from Aug. 3-4.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte's Wiki page has not been touched today. It was last revised on July 28.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's Wiki page hasn't been revised since July 24.

And that's where problems start emerging with the theory -- Byers later added:

The problem with Sifry's model is that tallying revisions doesn't account for the difference between serious, substantive edits and the persistence of one user who doesn't get his way -- much less minor spelling edits or slight augmentation of dates, etc. [Emphasis added]

So where does that leave you?  Most have come to the conclusion that, unless Romney picks a relatively unknown politician, the "Wikipedia method" may have grown too well-known to remain free of contaminating factors.

If you just can't wait, Tech President suggests scouring obscure aviation websites -- after all, it was a mechanic's admission that he saw "Edwards" being painted on Kerry's plane that broke the VP pick in 2004.

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