One of the dozens of e-mails in today's Inbox had this tantalizing subject line: "Cantwell/Baumgartner tied in Social Media Buzz"
A nice person from a public relations firm said she had some data on that race that might interest us: "According to a new media index from Temple University and LexisNexis, Maria Cantewell and Michael Baumgartner are in one of the tightest races in the country. The candidates are tied in social media buzz, as well as print and broadcast media mentions of the candidates."
Wha-what?? as Scooby Doo might say.
The Cantwell-Baumgartner race is not considered tight based on any metric we know -- not on polling data, not on campaign contributions, not on name recognition -- let alone "one of the the tightest races in the country."
If this is true, it would be huge news for Baumgartner, and would mean Cantwell shouldn't just fire her campaign advisors, she should have them buried up to their necks in the sand at Ocean Shores and wait for the tide to come in.
A phone call to the public relations folks, and a hookup to Prof. David Schuff of Temple's Fox School of Business, explained the index. It may shock some readers to know it isn't quite what the press release seems to be suggesting.
Baumgartner and Cantwell are tied in terms of the mentions they are currently getting on social media and in the conventional news media. The number of mentions is also "flat", which is to say it's not going up or down.
"They both, in the last week, have had the same number of Facebook and Twitter followers and blog mentions," Schuff said. "Tight races have a lot of volatility. Races with a big separation (between the candidates) have low volatility."
It's a "measure of interest", he said. Or in this case, lack of interest. If Baumgartner were closing in on Cantwell, he'd be generating more media mentions, more tweets and more likes than she was. The fact that they are tied in mentions, while she's ahead in the more standard campaign metrics, is bad news, not good.
Temple is still developing the media index, and is deploying it for the first time in this campaign season. After analyzing how it works on politicians, they'll deploy it for testing things like product branding.