By Doug Heye, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
With the New Jersey gubernatorial race going down to the wire, anything can happen and anything can affect the outcome.
Even the World Series.
Had teams other than the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies both advanced, the Series would be of no political consequence. But New York and Philadelphia are not merely cities close to New Jersey who happen to host the teams. The cities sandwich the Garden State and are its two largest media markets.
That certainly could affect paid advertisements on television, but the series, which puts the entire state in baseball overload, will make it harder for the candidates to gain earned media from newspapers and local television.
With the games being played into November for only the second time, New Jersey newspapers such as the Asbury Park Press, Bergen Record, Newark Star-Ledger, and Times of Trenton (not to mention hugely important New York and Philadelphia papers), will provide extra coverage of the World Series—in-depth analysis of each game, emerging storylines, and local human interest stories—through Election Day. Local television will quite literally devote extra time to the series, morning, noon, and night.
Many of these newspaper stories will not be in the sports section. They will be on page one—valuable real estate for any candidate—and in essence, not drown out media coverage of the gubernatorial race so much as choke it out and move it off the front burner in the minds of some voters.
The World Series played a role last year. In the waning days of the campaign, Sen. John McCain campaigned hard in Pennsylvania. Earned media coverage of various campaign events were lower than they otherwise would have been, due in no small part to the Phillies' first World Series championship since 1980—and McCain was running for president, not governor. The parade the city of Philadelphia threw for the team on October 31 last year dominated news coverage in the city and surrounding area.
If anyone would be choked out of coverage, it would appear to be third-party candidate Chris Daggett, who mostly earns coverage through debates. This could provide the slightest of advantages to Republican Chris Christie, who is challenging incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine and hampered by any rise in Daggett's numbers.
The World Series won't make the difference, but it could make a difference, just as it doesn't make breaking through the media, especially earned media, impossible, only harder. In a campaign that is neck and neck (and neck), every difference is critical, as we learned in Florida in 2000 and last year's Minnesota Senate race. And anyone who does not believe that any positive coverage possible in the heat of the campaign is important clearly missed New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg mugging for the cameras after the Yankees won Sunday evening.
(By the way, this Garden State native agrees with Mayor Bloomberg—let's go Yanks!)