Forget polls and fancy models: if you wanted to make a decent prediction of how the candidates would finish in Iowa, you would have done a decent job looking at how often the GOP candidates have been made fun of by late-night comedians. The topsy-turvy nature of the Republican nomination race has meant that virtually every contender has donned the media's frontrunner mantle. And with it comes scrutiny, especially from people paid to joke about topical things. And what material they've had! A pizza-making philanderer, a bumbling rough-and-tough Texan (again!), and someone who can't Google their own name, the 2012 presidential election cycle has been especially generous to late-night comedians. The Center for Media and Public Affairs has tallied the number of jokes made at their (and other public figures') expense in 2011 on the three most-watched late-night shows: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. And it shouldn't surprise anybody that from January 1 to December 10 of last year, no candiate gave comedians more comedic fodder than Herman Cain.
Does that order of finish look familiar? (Well, at least familiar-ish?) Cain, our biggest loser here, didn't even make it to Iowa, bowing out on December 3. The next two are Rick Perry (No. 6 here, No. 5 last night) who sounded like he was about to quit the race but changed his mind once Michele Bachmann (No. 5 in late night, No. 6 in Iowa) decided to drop out on Wednesday. Newt Gingrich was No. 4 in both jokes and in the caucuses. And then our three bunched-up finishers: Mitt Romney, who eked an 8-vote win in Iowa, then Ron Paul (who finished No. 3) and finally Rick Santorum, who won in the joke primary, and won in Iowa by nearly tying Romney. (The Center for Media and Public Affairs did not tally Jon Huntsman jokes, which is fitting since he did not compete in Iowa.)
"This shows that it’s hard to vote for somebody while you’re laughing at them," writes CMPA President Robert Lichter. So hey, maybe that lack of media attention for Ron Paul (and while we're at it, for Santorum as well) actually did them some good. Consider it proof that all publicity is not good publicity.