What we learned from Thursday night’s Republican debate: Tim Pawlenty is down with waterboarding. Gary Johnson has summited Mount Everest. Heroin is apparently an applause line in South Carolina.
What we learned Friday morning: The four-day-old killing of Osama Bin Laden easily trumps the opening debate of the GOP nomination battle. But then again, so do Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams, Pippa Middleton, and UFO sightings in Thailand.
Stories on those topics found their way on to the front pages of major newspapers Friday (in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, respectively). Readers looking for a recap of the debate, meanwhile, had to flip to anywhere between pages A3 and A19 in their morning editions.
To be fair, the debate occurred in the middle of near around-the-clock coverage of the aftermath of the Bin Laden killing, and the papers were likely eager to add some lighter fair to front pages that have been dedicated to special ops and foreign policy. And, of course, the five candidates who were on stage in Greenville, S.C. – Pawlenty, Johnson, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain – also are far from household names.
But then again, that’s not likely to change after people get done with their morning papers.
The Times doesn’t actually name its first candidate, Pawlenty, until the seventh paragraph of a 22-paragraph story. The other four men have to wait another seven graphs before seeing their names in print. (The story’s lead: “A quorum may be needed to follow parliamentary procedure, but not to put on a presidential debate.”)
Pawlenty drew an early mention in both the Post and the Journal, followed closely by Santorum. But the other three contenders were again left waiting, a total of seven graphs in the Post and six in the Journal.
Adding insult to injury for Paul, Johnson and Cain, the Post devoted a greater percentage of its story to a Thursday op-ed that Pawlenty wrote for the Daily Caller urging his party’s A-Listers to jump into the race than the paper did to the trio’s debate performances.
Meanwhile, as we noted Wednesday, the Associated Press scrapped plans to report on the event over a dispute about photographs. However, Reuters, which joined the AP in its photo boycott, did end up filing a print story.
In related news, the award for the best photo representation of the big names missing from Thursday’s debate goes to the The (Columbia, S.C.) State, which devoted one-sixth of this photo compilation to the “No Shows.”
Slate’s David Weigel was on hand for the debate. His take: “The consensus going in was that the lack of frontrunners in the room would minimize the importance of the event. The consensus going out was that the lack of frontrunners in the room minimized the importance of the event—and that Ron Paul's supporters are really loud.”