As pundits and the press provide instant reaction to the political debates, there's one group that labors to keep up with this rapid campaign cycle: the nation's political cartoonists.
Or, as artist Ruben Bolling says of cartooning during this quickly shifting election: "Now. we're behind the curve."
In a break between big debates, we headed to the Small Press Expo in Maryland over the weekend to answer the pesky question: What do you get when you put a dozen or so topical cartoonists in one hotel for two days -- within 48 hours after Sarah Palin's showdown with Joe Biden?
You get ranting about the state of their industry. You hear concerns about drying revenue streams. And consistently, over several moderated sessions, you get one common element: Sarah Palin one-liners.
The event featured sessions with some "mainstreamers" as well as numerous alternative cartoonists, and their remarks about both major tickets often proved provocative, entertaining and insightful. To wit:
1. ON PALIN'S CANDIDACY:
"I don't want her to win, but if she doesn't, our time with her will have been too short -- [speaking] as cartoonists."
-- Tom Tomorrow (aka Dan Perkins), ("This Modern World")
2. ON LAMPOONING PALIN:
"I try to avoid some of the moose and hockey-mom jokes. It plays into the Republicans' imagery."
-- Jen Sorenson, ("Slowpoke")
3. ON COMPETING WITH TV SATIRE:
"When I started [as a political cartoonist], it was about the speed at which we worked. We were the first out there satirizing something. Now, 'The Daily Show' is so fast and generally in the same direction -- now, we're [cartoonists] behind the curve."
-- Ruben Bolling, ("Tom the Dancing Bug")
4. ON RESTRICTIONS FROM EDITORS:
"When [New York governor] David Paterson was sworn in, I was told: 'No blind jokes.' Yet I've drawn him piloting a plane, and somehow, that is [okay]."
-- Frank Cammuso, (The Post-Standard, Syracuse)
5. ON CARTOONING FOR THE WEB:
"If you really nail a cartoon that hits the zeitgeist, it can explode -- but you're not going to see any money from it."
-- Matt Wuerker, Politico.com
6. ON PARTISAN CARTOONING:
"After the bump they got from putting Palin on the ticket, I felt like: The gloves are off. ... The Republicans have radio and [much of] TV. The left has cartoonists."
-- Keith Knight, ("The K Chronicles")
7. ON THE RACE:
"I'm so terrified of a McCain/Palin win that it's [cartooning's] become
easier in the past few weeks."
-- Mikhaela Reid
8. ON OBAMA AS A SUBJECT OF SATIRE:
"I agree that Obama might be tough to satirize -- and in the end, that might be his saving grace. ... [because] people get so much news from comedy."
-- Jen Sorenson