22 February 2008

Super Tuesday + Not-So-Super Economy = Soaring Press Coverage for Presidential Hopefuls

By Pati Carson
-- Dow Jones Insight staff
Coverage of all candidates surged in January and February as the economy and financial markets had their troubles and the presidential primary season got under way, with coverage peaking in the days leading up to “Super Tuesday” on February 5.

In late 2007, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama vied to position themselves as the candidate most opposed to the war in Iraq, while John McCain, the candidate who most strongly supports the war, actually drew far less coverage on the topic. But after President Bush’s annual State of the Union speech on January 28 proclaiming that “the surge is working,” Obama and Clinton clearly moved away from the topic, and McCain emerged as the candidate most closely associated with Iraq.

As the U.S. economy more or less hummed along in the latter half of 2007, the presidential candidates spent little time discussing it, focusing instead on more contentious issues like Iraq and immigration.
But when the subprime crisis and falling housing prices sparked fears of recession and the financial markets took significant hits in January and February, the candidates all had something to say, especially about Fed rate cuts and tax rebates, and coverage spiked. Governor Huckabee, the only state official among the four mainstream candidates, drew the least coverage.

While we all know the news from the polls is that Barack Obama is on a roll and has taken over the lead in the delegate count, a more subtle switch has also occurred since around Super Tuesday. Obama is leading over Hillary Clinton since then in the total number of media mentions (the individual occurrences of the person's name). Before Super Tuesday, Clinton was most always ahead of Obama. While the number of documents in which each gets mentioned is about the same (essentially, you can't write about one without at least mentioning the other), the number of mentions within those documents has switched. Have the members of the press shifted their collective mindset? Are they subconsciously jumping on the Barack bandwagon?

Which one is not like the others..?

Of the five presidential hopefuls, Ron Paul is by far the least “establishment” – not only does he believe in smaller government, but he’s running a smaller campaign. With less funding, he has focused on generating grassroots support, using the Internet as his chief method of getting the word out. The other four mainstream candidates receive a far higher proportion of their overall article mentions from the mainstream press, but the majority of Paul’s coverage comes from blogs and message boards.

Note: Sources in this analysis include more than 6,000 newspapers, wires, magazines, radio and TV transcripts; more than 13,000 current awareness news Web sites; 2 million of the most influential bloggers; and more than 6,000 message boards.