The Newsweek Curse

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 22 2011 12:35 PM

The Newsweek Curse

This isn't the problem that's kept the actual candidates up at night, but I'm in the media, damn it, and it's annoying. The fickle Republican base keeps choosing new frontrunners right after reporters are caught up on the last frontrunners. Exhibit A: Newsweek. All year, the magazine, has put the various not-Mitts on the cover right as they were about to collapse.

Exhibit A: Michele Bachmann. You remember this cover.

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The newstand date was August 15. (Magazine newstand dates actually announce the day they're supposed to be replaced on the stands by something else, but we'll use this.) That turned out to be the day that Bachmann won the Ames straw poll, and the day Rick Perry entered the race. According to the RealClearPolitics poll average, on that day, Bachmann led the field in Iowa with an average of 24 percent across all polls.

Exhibit B: Rick Perry, who shared this cover with Mitt Romney on September 28.

Screen shot 2011-12-22 at 12.17.26 PM

That day, Rick Perry led the RCP poll average with 27.2 percent -- down, but close to his highest support level. He started tumbling, and is now 20 points off that number.

Exhibit C: Herman Cain, who made the cover on October 24.

NewsweekLogo-1 [Converted]

That day, RCP had Cain in the lead with 25.9 percent. One week later, Politico started blowing chunks out of Cain with stories on his sexual harassment settlements at the National Restaurant Association. Cain is no longer a candidate.

Exhibit D: Newt Gingrich

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By December 19, Gingrich was coming off his high in national polls, from 10 points above Mitt Romney to 4 points. December 19 was also the day Ron Paul passed him in Iowa.

Let this be a lesson to Ron Paul: Whatever you do in response to your new heat over the Ron Paul Survival Report, do not pose for Newsweek.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.