- In past elections, Wikipedia edits have served as signal for vice presidential picks
- Edits seem to increase right before a candidate is announced as running mate
- Sen. Rob Portman's page had a spike in favorable edits on Tuesday
Mitt Romney is expected to announce his vice presidential running mate any day, and the certain GOP nominee's campaign is asking supporters to download "Mitt's VP" app, which has the primary purpose of sending a push notification with the name of Romney's choice to users before the official announcement to the press.
For the impatient, the Tech President blog has brought up an interesting possible early indicator: activity on potential picks' Wikipedia pages.
In the past, Wikipedia activity has spiked for vice presidential picks the day before an official announcement was made. In 2008, hours before Republican candidate John McCain announced his vice presidential choice, Sarah Palin's Wikipedia page was getting a heavy edit. According to The Washington Post, the then-Alaska governor's page was changed 68 times the day before the announcement. In the 24 hours leading up to Obama's running mate announcement, Joe Biden's page was edited 40 times.
While there's no official list of people being considered by the Romney campaign, a few names have been bouncing around, including Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Tim Pawlenty and Paul Ryan. The Tech President looked at Wikipedia activity for these and other potential choices on Monday, and though it found some interesting numbers, no one page has yet seen the one-day levels of activity experienced by Palin's and Biden's in '08.
On Monday, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan had the most changes with 10, but on Tuesday, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman took the lead with 16 changes made by a Wikipedia user called River8009. The anonymous user deleted a section on controversies, a paragraph about NAFTA and various criticisms of Portman. When the seemingly biased edits were noticed, other Wikipedia users organized on Reddit message boards and acted to revert the changes and lock the page to prevent more tweaks. River8009 was flagged by Wikipedia for having a "possible conflict of interest."
Marco Rubio's Wikipedia page was also quite active on Tuesday, and the comments on the changes are an interesting peek at the Florida senator's supporters and detractors. The primary argument was over whether to include a quote calling Rubio the "crown prince of the tea party movement," with some tea party members disputing the title.
Recent Wikipedia edits could be the work of hopeful candidates wanting to look better to the Romney campaign as it deliberates (though a presidential candidate likely uses more than Wikipedia to vet vice presidential running mates). It is also possible the Romney campaign has learned from the past coverage of Wikipedia edits and will only make changes gradually leading up to an official announcement.