Throughout the Romney campaign, there was decidedly less to "get" inside the bubble than ever before. So big-foot reporters mostly ignored the bus and found stories elsewhere.
3. Nicknames -- and not nice ones
Campaign operatives sometimes come up with nicknames for the journalists that cover them.
Some in Al Gore's 2000 campaign referred to the female print reporters on their plane as "The Spice Girls." Hillary Clinton aides in 2008 referred to their cliquish band of traveling television "embeds" as "The Heathers."
The Romney press corps in 2012 liked to call themselves the "Romney Ramblers," a nod to the innovative automobile that made Romney's father George rich and famous.
David Axelrod, Obama's senior adviser, had another name for the Romney press corps, who he and others in Chicago thought were too soft on the Republican nominee. He called them "Patty Hearst."
Time and Newsweek once housed many of political journalism's liveliest storytellers and were long seen by campaigns as crucial agenda-setters for media elites and voters alike.
Karen Hughes, a top aide to George W. Bush, placed a premium on courting the magazine writers covering the Bush's 2000 campaign---including Time's Jay Carney, now Obama's White House spokesman. Once Bush was in the White House, Hughes even held a weekly briefing for magazine writers, a routine that no longer exists.
"If they chose to put something on the cover it could drive stories for several days," Hughes said of the two magazines. "They were important."
But by the time the 2012 campaign was in full bloom, there was only one newsweekly that the Obama and Romney campaigns cared about -- Time.
Newsweek had seen its circulation tumble by a staggering 51% between 2007 and the end of 2012, when it rolled out its final print edition and moved to an all-digital format after merging with Tina Brown's website, The Daily Beast. The site was heavy on opinion writing and essays but, with few exceptions, light on original reporting.
Full-time Romney reporters had trouble recalling any Newsweek journalists in the traveling press. One Obama press strategist described the once-mighty brand as "so unimpactful I honestly don't know what you're talking about."
That's a startling comment considering Newsweek's heavy campaign footprint in previous cycles, when it paid for multiple reporters at a time to fly around the country with a candidate---one or two writers to cover the campaign as it unfolded, and another to report only for a behind-the-scenes book project that would be printed after the election.
5. Twitter was everything
For reporters covering the 2012 race, Twitter was the usually the first iPhone app they opened bleary-eyed in the morning, and the last one they peeked at before falling asleep at night.
Everyone in politics, it seemed, was on Twitter: journalists, editors, pundits, campaign managers, television producers, bureau chiefs, flacks, pollsters, activists, lobbyists, donors, wives of donors, daughters of donors, hacky operatives, buffoonish down-ballot candidates, cousins of direct mail specialists, interns desperate for retweets. Even Dick Morris was on Twitter.
When political news broke, Twitter was the place to find it. Top officials from the Obama and Romney campaigns would joust, publicly, via tweet. When news producers back in Washington and New York were deciding what to put on their shows, many looked first to their Twitter feeds.
"It's the gathering spot, it's the filing center, it's the hotel bar, it's the press conference itself all in one," said Jonathan Martin of The New York Times. "It's the central gathering place now for the political class during campaigns but even after campaigns. It's even more than that. It's become the real-time political wire. That's where you see a lot of breaking news. That's where a lot of judgments are made about political events, good, bad or otherwise."
Operatives in each of the campaigns understood the potency of Twitter as a way to watch, and influence, how narratives were forming among journalists.
Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said Twitter "made it easier to spin" after debates.
"We knew if there was a favorable storyline that was developing on Twitter, we knew to take that and emphasize it in the spin room," he said. "If there was negative storyline that had developed during the debate we knew that that was going to be a talker in the spin room. And we would prepare a specific response to that."
6. ... and Twitter was nothing
In March of this year, the Pew Research Center released a study comparing Twitter reaction to major events to the reaction of the American public, as measured by polls.
The study examined big political moments, like Obama's 2012 State of the Union address and the Supreme Court's decision to uphold his health care reform law. Pew found a startling disconnect between how Twitter users interpreted the events versus the reaction of the public at large.