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By Jay Cost

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Footnote to Friday's Column

On Friday, I wrote a column entitled "On the Republican Itinerary." Using data from the Washington Post, I tracked where Republican candidates have been spending their time since November 1 (outside debates and fundraisers). Following the Post, I noted that Fred Thompson had 14 public events, half of which had been in South Carolina.

A few hours after the article had gone up, I received an email from Paul in New Jersey - pointing me to an article written by Bill Theobald of the Tennessean, which asserted:

A review of the two-week period from Nov. 4-17 by Gannett News Service shows Thompson held 28 campaign events, making him No. 2 among the four major GOP candidates. Sen. John McCain of Arizona topped the list at 35. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney held 22 and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 20.

Giuliani, however, had the broadest reach, visiting 10 states and Washington, D.C., during the period. He was followed by McCain with 10 states, Thompson with seven states and D.C., and Romney with six states.

How to explain the differences? Remember first of all that I excluded debates and fundraisers. But also WaPo says about its count, "This database does not include every event; fundraisers often are not announced, and some events will be updated as more details become available."

When we put the fundraisers and debates back into the WaPo count, we can make the following comparisons:

Giuliani: Gannett says 20 events in 10 states plus DC; WaPo says 18 events in 8 states plus DC.

McCain: Gannett says 35 events in 10 states. WaPo says 39 events in 8 states plus DC.

Romney: Gannett says 22 events in 6 states. WaPo says 36 events in 8 states.

Thompson: Gannett says 28 events in 7 states plus. WaPo says 10 events in 3 states.

Does this new data affect my argument? Yes - a little bit. There really are no major differences between WaPo and Gannett on McCain and Giuliani. And WaPo seems to have a more comprehensive count for Romney than Gannett. So, the effect, if there is one, would only be with Thompson.

The inference I drew about the Thompson campaign is that it had been emphasizing South Carolina, not Iowa, in its public campaign appearances - and that its pivot from the former to the latter is a recent change. The Gannett count would alter this conclusion if and only if: (a) it counts public (i.e. non-fundraising) appearances that WaPo missed AND (b) a comprehensive count of Thompson's public appearances alters the balance between Iowa and South Carolina that the WaPo data indicates. For instance, if those 18 additional Thompson events were public appearances, most of which were in Iowa and not South Carolina - that would change my conclusion.

But, the article from the Tennessean does not give a detailed breakdown of the types of events Thompson held. So, maybe the conclusion would change. Maybe not. At the least, this differing count introduces some variance into my estimate. My intuition at this point is that the differences between the two are due largely to fundraisers - that WaPo's count is basically accurate when it comes to public appearances.

Nevertheless, WaPo is clearly missing some public appearances. This is from my emailer Paul:

Here's an account of him campaigning in SC the weekend of Friday, November 24. No mention on WaPo of Fred doing anything on the 24th, 25th or 26th.

Here's video of Fred speaking at the Florida Family Policy Council on 11/16/2007. Nothing listed on WaPo.

Here's video of him campaigning in Ohio on 12/7/07. WaPo has him as "no events scheduled".

So, WaPo is clearly not counting Thompson's public events comprehensively. If the undercount is not factoring in appearances in Iowa - my conclusion from Friday would not hold. As I do not know what WaPo is missing, I am necessarily less confident about the Thompson campaign.

I certainly would have mentioned Gannett's count if I had known about it. I had assumed that WaPo's count could be considered roughly accurate - and that its numbers for public appearances are reliable. If anybody knows of another count that might enable a verification of the WaPo numbers, please let me know.

-Jay Cost