Five Thirty Eight, one of the myriad election projection sites around the web, has a piece far more interesting and entertaining than another story on how divide the number 538: the Electric Minor Political Scandal Acid Test.
We all have our biases, and we all wonder how it is that some story we just don't care about, like what's on Obama's lapel or McCain's use of his wife's jet as opposed to her car, takes off on the web while important news like Zimbabwe goes undiscussed. 538 has an explanation for this, and based on about 26 years of watching politics like a hawk I think he's mostly right. The test boils down to:
1. Easy soundbite.
2. Appearance of hypocrisy or other serious political negative.
3. Does it tell us something we just know is true?
4. Is it safe for the opposition to use?
5. Are people bored?
Based on these criteria (more fully explained at 538), we can see why Obama's Jeremiah Wright problem took off. BLACK NATIONALIST OBAMA PREACHER YELLS GOD DAMN AMERICA IN CHURCH ON 911!
But you can apply the test to any of them. WARMONGER BUSH USED DADDY'S CONNECTIONS TO DODGE VIETNAM DRAFT! would have been dynamite, had it not been superseded by something even easier: LIBERAL MEDIA SMEARS REPUBLICAN WITH FAKED DOCUMENTS!!! And so Dan Rather lost his job, and John Kerry lost his election.
In fact, you could probably condense the test even further. Can you put the scandal in capital letters, and if so, how many punctuation symbols can you add before it gets embarrassing? Based on all of this, I can see two potential scandals becoming major embarrassments if further evidence or events warrant: McCain's explosive temper (SHOULD THIS MAN HAVE HIS FINGER ON THE BUTTON?!?), and the fact that surrogates claiming to support Obama are sabotaging his candidacy by minimizing or laughing off McCain's heroism (LIBERAL BRIE EATERS SPIT ON MCCAIN'S SACRIFICE!!!) That or something to do with arugula.
Of the two, I expect the temper to have more legs when it matters. Obama can throw Wesley Clark and any number of idiot bloggers under the bus. His bus has 18 wheels. McCain, on the other hand, has to drive his bus, or someone will have an accident.
Via John Scalzi.