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Game Change, Again

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Mike Allen and Evan Thomas have written a wildly interesting, very compact eBook that perhaps got lost in the run-up to Christmas. If you like politics, you will love
The Right Fights Back.

And if you are a publisher, welcome to the future.

I will not ruin any of the inside baseball that Allen and Thomas provide in great quantity in highly condensed fashion. Hey, it costs three bucks. Buy it and enjoy. The price is the equivalent of a medium coffee at Starbucks and if we want more of such offerings, we have to pay the piper, and these pipers are worth paying.

I am deeply prejudiced in favor of the project's success for three reasons.

First, Politico’s Mike Allen may be the nicest man in journalism, period. If year-end tax planning is upon some of you and you are dispensing with charitable gifts, help him in his effort to raise $60,000 in a challenge grant to benefit the Cornerstone School students in the heart of D.C. Read up on the school and take Allen's word for it.

Second, The Right Fights Back confirms my long-held and frequently voiced assessment that Ed Rollins is among the most disreputable of men. Is there anyone he has worked for that he hasn’t betrayed? It certainly isn’t Michele Bachmann, who has more knives in her back by page 20 that she reminds you of Wile E. Coyote after a chase of Road Runner through a cutlery shop. Many of us tried to warn her, but she didn’t listen and so here is Rollins trashing her in print after taking who knows how much of her money.

Third, I have an eBook in the works that will arrive soon, a small lift of 7,500 words that the publisher requested and which prompted me to think “Why not?” It is too long for a column and too short for a book, and waiting months for some 20-something editor at one of the dying mags to tell me he or she likes it certainly didn’t appeal. Alex Berenson had told me of his following the same course on a subject that interested him some months ago. Lost in Kandahar was the first "mini" eBook I heard of that made sense. Now I see them everywhere. Somebody please tell the country's finest essayist, Joseph Epstein, there's a lot of money to be made here that he really doesn't have to share.

No doubt the New York Times will soon start a best-sellers list for books under 10,000 words and available only electronically. Perhaps it already has and I don't know about it, which is the point. Not only aren't there any gatekeepers anymore, the ruins are in danger of being covered in virtual sand.

I will relentlessly promote my own eBook when it arrives, so don’t worry about missing that one. But do worry about missing the Allen/Thomas offering. Here is what it reveals: Everything has changed, again. And it will change again before the spring, and again before the conventions, and of course again before November’s ballots are cast.

I talked about this with Tagg Romney on Wednesday’s radio show. I first interviewed Tagg in 2006, just as I began work on my book about his father, and so he is one of the few to have been on both Romney campaigns and at the center of the planning and execution (or lack of it in 2008) of the strategy. There are many changes between then and now, of course, but the one he identifies is the sheer speed at which events move now.

“[H]ow is the media different this time around?” I asked him.

“Well, you know, the media, well, it’s a very different world to begin with,” he began. “You know, it’s funny. I remember going to, after each debate four years ago, you go to the spin room, and then you talk to all the different reporters that were there from Politico and ABC, and the New York Times, and then they’d run off and write their stories after you finished talking to them.”

“Well what’s interesting now, you show up, and they’ve already written, they’ve already Tweeted exactly what they’re going to say, and the spin room is almost irrelevant, because they’ve already spun, and you’ve been spinning during the debate, you’ve been Tweeting during the debate, and they’ve been taking notice of those things,” he continued.

“And so it’s a whole different world,” he concluded. “I mean, it’s just so much faster, the speed with which everything travels.”

As it is with the campaign, so it is with the reporting of the campaign, and so too with the market for books about the campaign.

Mark Halperin’s and John Heilemann’s Game Change was a news event when it published in early January, 2010, a full two years after President Obama’s election. It gave readers the inside look, exposed the hidden hands, laid bare the secrets (which some may think journalists owe in real time, but that’s another story.)

No more big advances, I think, for those authors coming to the party 24 months after the dancing is done. Allen and Thomas have set a new standard for political reporting. The game has changed again.

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