On the one hand, this New York Times graphic -- showing how many campaign stops each presidential candidate has made in each city in the country -- is totally cool. You can customize by candidate, by date range and even by the all-important circle size.
No, seriously, go check it out. Even if you didn't really need to know that Bill Richardson made two visits to Oskaloosa, Iowa, the fact is, you could, and you wouldn't have to look it up on some boring black-and-white chart. Slide the arrow thingy to select different date ranges and watch that map change before your very eyes. Click on the candidates' names for individual views and you might be able to figure out, for example, where Dennis Kucinich went wrong. (Or, if you're Laura, you might use that feature to make a list of which cities to avoid on your next vacation because Mitt Romney has been there.)
It's the most fun you can have with politics and graphics, maybe aside from watching Tim Russert use his white board on election night.
On the other hand, it's sort of embarassing, isn't it? While newsrooms all over the country are bitching about not having enough money to pay those people who come up with the words that get printed in between the pretty ads -- I think they're called "reporters" -- the NYT has clearly has enough cash on hand to pay someone to go through the data, create this pretty map with bubbles on it, and make it all interactive-like. And, while it is, as I mentioned, a totally cool graphic, I can't imagine that it's terribly useful to anyone outside of the campaign staffs or the populace of Oskaloosa, Iowa. It's not exactly going to help me pick my candidate or come to any useful conclusions about the election -- it's just a very well designed gee-whiz.
Seems sort of like watching your neighbor have to sell his car because he can't afford the payments and then pulling into your garage in a tasty little Aston Martin. Not a great comparison, but you get the picture.