We don't pretend it was a decisive factor but it is notable that Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee have been engaging with journalists from the foreign, particularly, British media and Hillary Clinton didn't. In his blog, The Telegraph's Toby Harnden notes how not one British journalist - including anyone from the BBC - was permitted to attend Senator Clinton's "Victory" party in Iowa but 700 US journalists were. In contrast the Obama staff chatted freely to all reporters. On the Republican side of the aisle McCain and Huckabee have also been very open to the UK media.
Continuing to think in terms of US and foreign press is foolish:
- Millions of Americans read the British media online everyday. The latest data we've seen suggests 5 million read the BBC website every month. 4.5 million read The Guardian. 3.3 million go to The Times.
- Matt Drudge, in particular, but also sites like RealClearPolitics, Instapundit and the Daily Kos are regularly linking to UK journalists. As far as Drudge is concerned he'll link to the best writing and stories. He doesn't care if it's from the New York Times or London's Times. Sarah Baxter of The Sunday Times notes that her column reaches hundreds of thousands of Americans every time one of her columns gets a link from Drudge.
- Many UK media outfits are powerful in the US and not just because of the internet. Millions listen to the BBC World Service or watch BBC America. Hundreds of thousands of US voters buy The Financial Times and Economist every week.
This will be the first election when the UK media play a big role in US domestic politics. In a very close election it might even be decisive.
There are a number of Britons who are already stars in American politics. Christopher Hitchens, John O'Sullivan and Andrew Sullivan stand out in that regard. But next time Team Clinton draw up a list of people to invite to a party or briefing I suggest they start with the following list of ten...
Gerard Baker, US Editor of The Times. Baker is a regular columnist on the USA for The Times and also leads the Across The Pond blog. He is also very close to Rupert Murdoch and the new team of people from the London Times who are running the Wall Street Journal.
Sarah Baxter, The Sunday Times. With some of the best contacts of any UK journalists within the camps of the leading presidential candidates, her pre-Iowa column 'This is showtime, folks, let's pick a president' got the Drudge treatment and was one of the most read articles from last week's Times Online.
Rupert Cornwell, The Independent. Cornwell recently wrote this of Senator Obama: "Not even the young Clinton exuded such freshness and promise as a candidate. No one can promise an end to bickering partisan "politics as usual" as he. But after just three years' service in the Senate, is Obama qualified for the job? He would indeed represent, to use Bill Clinton's words, "a roll of the dice". But then again, Americans are ready to do just that."
Clive Crook, US columnist of the Financial Times. He blogs here and blogged this on the GOP race: "The time-series of national opinion-poll ratings for the Republican presidential candidates looks like the read-out of a patient having a stroke. The lines jerk up and down, as party supporters search desperately, and so far in vain, for a candidate they like."
James Forsyth, The Spectator. Not yet established as a widely-read commentator but his posts from Iowa for The Spectator's Coffee House blog have been must-reads. Forsyth on Huckabee: "Huckabee won big tonight and will be formidable in the South Carolina primary later this month. Yet, he still is a sectional candidate; one can’t see him winning the California or New York primaries. Another problem for Huckabee is that the press think he is not ready to be president. Now, that he’s won Iowa he is going to face even more scrutiny than before and every little slip will be front page news. Also expect a slew of stories about the questionable aspects of his Arkansas record."
Toby Harnden, US Editor of The Telegraph. Harnden's blog shot to prominence last year when he listed America's 100 most important conservatives and liberals. He blogs and regularly comments for Telegraph online. The Telegraph's Trail Mix blog is also good value.
Tim Shipman, Washington Bureau Chief of The Sunday Telegraph. Shipman provided this insightful opening line on Hillary Clinton's Iowa defeat: "You know a politician has lost when they praise the turnout rather than the result." Before being posted to Washington he was one of London's most respected political reporters. He's sure to get good stories throughout 2008.
Michael Tomasky, Guardian America. Having recently launched a dedicated American website with extra reporting staff, The Guardian, with the BBC, is leading Britain's biggest invasion of America since the Beatles. One conservative commentator told BritainAndAmerica that the anti-Iraq war and pro-Kyoto columns of The Guardian had helped feed the Democrats' webroots. Tomasky, the only American on this 'UK media' list, is Editor of Guardian America. He writes today about 'Obama's big moment'.
Justin Webb, BBC Washington Editor. Webb is arguably the most important individual on this list because of the millions of Americans who now turn to the BBC for news. Webb is pro-American and has castigated the BBC in London for its hostility towards the USA. But the America he loves is the America of the east and west coasts. He is sniffy about the 'flyover states' and the faith of Christian America. Webb blogs here. Other important people at BBC America include Jonathan Beale and BBC America News presenters, Matt Frei and Katty Kay.
Adrian Wooldridge, The Economist. With John Micklethwait, Wooldridge wrote an authoritative study of America's conservative movement, The Right Nation. He is the regular author of The Economist's weekly US politics column, Lexington. His latest column is here.