You, too, can be a campaign reporter!

Up to speed on Dennis Kucinich's UFO encounters? Know which candidate is Dick Cheney's cousin? Test your '08 savvy here.

Topics: 2008 Elections,

You, too, can be a campaign reporter!

We, the campaign press corps, need help. We can’t do it alone. The campaign season is just too long, too exhausting. It has already been a year of diner food and Iowa sunsets, motel room breakfasts and three-hour bus rides at dawn. Our children don’t recognize us. Our husbands and wives won’t look us in the eye. Our boyfriends and girlfriends have moved on.

So you must take this test, the second installment of the ACTAT — Advanced Campaign Trail Aptitude Test. You must score well. Our very democracy depends upon it. If you get a perfect score, you can quit your job and join the circus. We will give up our seats on the bus.* We will join a yoga class, read poetry and talk about our feelings more.

As before, the test is hard. Number a piece of paper 1 to 30. The answers are available on Page 3. If you get every question right, you can have my job.*

*Just kidding.

1. When prompted by a young voter in Exeter, N.H., Rudy Giuliani promised to keep America safe from what obscure threat?

  • A. Unsteady liposuction doctors
  • B. Evil space aliens
  • C. British television remakes
  • D. Fluoridated water
  • E. The Ebola virus

2. According to the Politico, an aide to Mitt Romney used the following prop at a recent campaign meeting:

  • A. A fresh trout, wrapped in newspaper, because Giuliani will sleep with the fishes
  • B. The 1988 campaign book “What It Takes,” to demonstrate why candidates fail
  • C. A witch’s hat, because, you know, Hillary Clinton, blah, blah, blah
  • D. A whoopee cushion, which was discovered after Tagg Romney sat down
  • E. A wet rag, to show that waterboarding isn’t so bad

3. The eastern Nevada field director of what presidential candidate resigned after it was discovered that he had been investigated for shorting prostitutes their pay at Mona’s Ranch, a legal brothel in Elko?

  • A. Hillary “Let It Ride” Clinton
  • B. Mitt “The Penny Pincher” Romney
  • C. John “Blackjack” Edwards
  • D. Dennis “Area 51″ Kucinich
  • E. Bill “Hold ‘Em” Richardson

4. According to his memoir, Bernie Kerik underwent what mafia-like ritual when Rudy Giuliani promoted him to deputy corrections commissioner of New York?



  • A. Giuliani gave him a blindfolded ride to the Meadowlands
  • B. He was told to “take a cannoli” from the kitchen at Gracie Mansion
  • C. Giuliani said he would now be known in the family by his new nickname, “The Tool”
  • D. Each of Giuliani’s closest staff members came forward and kissed him
  • E. His body was given a pat-down, to see if he was wearing a wire

5. After her campaign aide was caught planting a question in the audience of a town hall event, Hillary Clinton explained the deception this way.

  • A. “That staff member is no longer with the campaign.”
  • B. “In campaigns, things happen and you just go on.”
  • C. “Well, it depends on what the definition of ‘plant’ is.”
  • D. “As I have said, I am the only candidate ready to hit the ground running on Day One.”
  • E. “The American people should expect more from its leaders. I’m sorry.”

Match each of the following passages of canonical campaign reportage to its author:

6. “Campaign journalism is, by definition, pack journalism; to follow a candidate, you must join a pack of other reporters; even the most independent journalist cannot completely escape the pressures of the pack.”

7. “Bristling with filial tension and nurturing the chip on his privileged shoulder, the son refuses to follow in the proper father’s footsteps and instead engages in, as John Updike put it, ‘impulsive bellicosity,’ falling into a self-destructive spiral that starts when he throws a drink into an ally’s face at the club.”

8. “Politics, in a sense, has always been a con game. The American voter, insisting upon his belief in a higher order, clings to his religion, which promises another, better life; and defends passionately the illusion that the men he chooses to lead him are of a finer nature than he.”

9. “So George Bush is coming to the Astrodome. Disaster in the making. The thing is, it couldn’t just happen. George Bush couldn’t just fly in, catch a cab to the ballpark, get his ticket torn, and grab a beer on the way to his seat. No, he’d come too far for that.”

10. “Presidential primaries are always savage. But the Presidential primaries of 1964 were to exceed in savagery and significance any other in modern politics.”

  • A. Theodore H. White, from his second “The Making of the President”
  • B. Joe McGinniss, from “The Selling of the President”
  • C. Richard Ben Cramer, from “What It Takes”
  • D. Timothy Crouse, from “The Boys on the Bus”
  • E. Maureen Dowd, from the New York Times

11. Name the Republican presidential candidate who has not had a prominent supporter accused in the last year of either cocaine trafficking or illegal sexual solicitation.

  • A. Mitt Romney
  • B. Rudy Giuliani
  • C. Fred Thompson
  • D. John McCain
  • E. None of the above

12. According to Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Kucinich had the following reaction after he had a close encounter with a triangular UFO, which hovered above him for about 10 minutes and then sped away.

  • A. “He was happy to have confirmed what he always knew: They are among us.”
  • B. “He said, ‘Damn, this is good stuff. Can you get me more?’”
  • C. “He felt a connection in his heart and heard directions in his mind.”
  • D. “He wondered why they left him behind.”
  • E. “He received a message: Dick Cheney must be impeached.”

13. When asked by Newsweek if he had ever baptized the dead, a controversial Mormon practice, Mitt Romney said:

  • A. “There are some parts of my faith that I am not comfortable speaking about.”
  • B. “I have in my life, but I haven’t recently.”
  • C. “Yes, but only members of [my wife] Ann’s extended family.”
  • D. “Just two people: Sammy Davis Jr. and Sam Kinison.”
  • E. “I was hoping to talk about sanctuary cities.”

14. In campaign parlance, the phrase “birddogging” is used to describe:

  • A. A campaign aide scouting the crowd for potential troublemakers
  • B. Secret Service snipers taking positions on a roof or in the rafters of an auditorium
  • C. Candidates glancing at the chest or buttocks of a young supporter
  • D. Hotel maids rifling through the garbage after a candidate checks out
  • E. Interest group supporters asking prefabricated questions at a town hall

15. The motto of Kum & Go, an Iowa gas station chain, is:

  • A. We go all out!
  • B. Harder! Faster! Cheaper!
  • C. We go all the way!
  • D. We don’t ever stop!
  • E. Regularly tested!

16. In his first televised campaign ad, Mike Huckabee made all of the following claims about Chuck Norris except:

  • A. He can push the earth down
  • B. He can secure the border
  • C. He can determine how America votes
  • D. His scissor kick cuts taxes
  • E. His face is a fist

17. Robert Novak reported that Hillary Clinton’s campaign has damaging information on Barack Obama, but will not plan to release it. Novak said his source for this story was:

  • A. An unsolicited e-mail from rhoades.darkarts@mittromney.com
  • B. Karl Rove
  • C. A CIA operative working on weapons of mass destruction
  • D. A well-known Democrat who recently heard the news from a friend of a friend’s wife
  • E. A “neutral” Democrat who heard the information from a Clinton “agent”

18. At this time of year in 2003, a Pew survey of Iowa Democrats and Independents asked which Democrat had “the best chance of defeating George W. Bush” in a general election. Which of the following is true about the results?

  • A.More than twice as many voters picked Howard Dean than John Kerry
  • B.More people thought Richard Gephardt would beat Bush than Kerry
  • C. One percent of respondents said Dennis Kucinich had the best chance to beat Bush
  • D. Three percent of respondents volunteered that no one has a chance to beat Bush
  • E. All of the above

19. According to the New Republic, Fred Thompson met his current wife, Jeri, who is 24 years younger, in 1996, while:

  • A. Attending a charity screening of “The Hunt for Red October” in Knoxville, Tenn.
  • B. Standing in the checkout line at a Kroger grocery store in Nashville
  • C. Waiting in the drink line at a Republican National Committee gala dinner
  • D. Campaigning for Republican nominee Bob Dole in Memphis
  • E. Leaving a Planned Parenthood fundraiser, which Thompson had attended as a lobbyist

Match the candidate to his campaign trail joke.

20. “In case you missed it, a few days ago Sen. Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock Concert Museum. Now my friends, I wasn’t there. I am sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was tied up at the time.”

21. “It doesn’t help that you put my cousin, Dick Cheney, in charge of energy policy. I’ve been trying to hide this for a long time. Everyone has a black sheep in the family.”

22. “The best way to describe my childhood is that the only soap that we had in our house when I was a kid was Lava soap. What that really means is that I was in college before I found out that it’s not supposed to hurt when you take a shower.”

23. “I’ve got a good liberal Democrat in the state of Washington named David Nierenberg and I set him up to be a surrogate for me in Alaska and he went up and spoke up there. But on Saturday, he attended services there in Anchorage. I said, ‘How was it?’ He said, ‘They call the place the “synagogue of the frozen chosen.”‘”

24. “I got to tell you my dream. I’ve got to tell you my dream. Are there any psychiatrists in this audience?”

  • A. Rudy Giuliani
  • B. Barack Obama
  • C. Mike Huckabee
  • D. John McCain
  • E. Mitt Romney

25. Which of the following is not a “microtrend” demographic group listed in the table of contents to the new book by Mark Penn, the pollster for Hillary Clinton?

  • A. Pro-Semites
  • B. Cougars
  • C. Vegan Children
  • D. Sci-Fi Pregnancy Zealots
  • E. XXX Men

26. Which one of the following things has Bill Clinton said while introducing his wife on the trail?

  • A. “You want the government to send you money? Elect Hillary president.”
  • B. “You want to end world hunger? Elect Hillary president.”
  • C. “You want to solve global warming? Elect Hillary president.”
  • D. “You want to fix America’s position in the world overnight? Elect Hillary president.”
  • E. “You want to improve your health? Elect Hillary president.”

27. According to Newsweek, Rudy Giuliani’s homeroom teacher in grade school once “gave him a whack” for talking in class. Giuliani’s parents responded by:

  • A. Hiring a lawyer
  • B. Protesting to the principal, to no avail
  • C. Pulling young Rudy from the school
  • D. Thanking the teacher because “it made all the difference”
  • E. Giving young Rudy another whack

28. The Iowa Caucus will be held on Thursday, Jan. 3, the same night as the Orange Bowl. New Hampshire is set to have the first-in-the-nation primary on what date?

  • A. Saturday, Jan. 5, the birthday of Robert Duvall
  • B. Tuesday, Jan. 8, national English Toffee Day
  • C. Friday, Jan. 11, Amelia Earhart Day
  • D. Wednesday, Jan. 2, Georgia Ratification Day
  • E. Tuesday, Dec. 25, Christmas

29. Mitt Romney is worth upward of $200 million. According to campaign finance law, he can contribute how much to his own campaign in the 60 days before the Iowa Caucus?

  • A. Nothing
  • B. No more than 50 percent of his fourth-quarter fundraising haul from other sources
  • C. As much as he wants
  • D. $10 million
  • E. An additional $2,300 for each of his other campaign contributors

30. A group called “Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America” has been running ads in South Carolina that praise John McCain. The group is led by a former McCain advisor, and refuses to disclose its donors. The candidate’s response to the ads was:

  • A. He denounced the group for skirting campaign finance rules
  • B. He uncharacteristically refused comment
  • C. He said, “In campaigns, things happen and you just go on”
  • D. He told his supporters and fundraisers not to support the group
  • E. Both A and D

Answers are on Page 3.

Here’s how to score your answers:

0-10 correct. Greenhorn. Give it a few years. You are not yet ready for the trail.

11-20 correct. There’s potential. Come out to Des Moines. You can drink at Centro.

21-25 correct. Trail ready. Christmas in Waterloo!

26-30 correct. Top-tier scribbler. Now make the New York Times’ Adam Nagourney sweat.

1. B — Space aliens

2. B — “What It Takes”

3. E — Richardson

4. D — Kiss

5. B — “Things happen”

6. D — Crouse

7. E — Dowd

8. B — McGinniss

9. C — Cramer

10. A — White

11. E — None of the above

12. C — “Heard directions in his mind”

13. B — “I haven’t recently”

14. E — Interest group sends supporters

15. A — We go all out!

16. D — Scissor kick

17. E — Neutral Democrat, Clinton agent

18. E — All of the above

19. B — Kroger checkout line

20. D — McCain

21. B — Obama

22. C — Huckabee

23. E — Romney

24. A — Giuliani

25. D — Pregnancy zealots

26. D — America’s position in the world

27. D — Thanking the teacher

28. B — Jan. 8; Toffee Day

29. C — As much as he wants

30. E — Both A and D

Michael Scherer is Salon's Washington correspondent. Read his other articles here.

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