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Ideas

Ideas | The Word

Now, speaking for Romney (or Obama)

What’s behind the rise of the ‘surrogate’

As the Obama and Romney campaign engines kick into high gear for these final days before the election, everywhere you look are politicians, pundits, and celebrities speaking not just in praise of the candidates, but on behalf of them. They’re in the “spin rooms” at the debates, on the Sunday morning talk shows, and out on the campaign trail. Notably, these ubiquitous folks are no longer referred to as plain old backers of the candidate. In 2012, these people are “surrogates.”

The job of surrogates is to make special-interest pleas, to do the partisan sniping that the candidates themselves might want to avoid, and to allow the candidates to spread their messages widely. And some indubitably have approval from the top to do just that. The omnipresent Bill Clinton has come to be known as Obama’s “surrogate-in-chief.” Likewise, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is tagged as a surrogate on talk-show appearances, surely the Romney campaign has given him the green light.

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