In what is being called the biggest surprise of the campaign thus far, Republican soon-to-be nominee John McCain tapped Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate on Friday, August 29, just hours after the end of the four-day hooplah that was the Democratic National Convention. The Palin announcement generated quite a stir in mainstream media and, even more so, on the blogs and boards, and succeeded in taking the spotlight back from the Democrats. (We will compare coverage of the two conventions in a future analysis, after the close of the Republican convention.)
Palin received 7,989 mentions in mainstream sources on the day of the announcement, as the press scrambled to produce background on the largely unknown governor and puzzled out the reasons for and implications of her selection. That figure was 17% higher than the number of mentions received by Joe Biden (6,854) on August 23, the day he was named, somewhat expectedly, as Obama’s running mate. In social media, the difference was even greater, with Palin receiving 13,822 mentions on August 29, 65% higher than the 8,384 Biden mentions on the day he was announced.
Palin’s numbers are all the more notable given the general lack of coverage she’s received from the media in the past. The number of mainstream mentions she received on the day of the announcement was more than four times the total she’d received for all of 2008 (1,720 mentions from January 1 through August 27), and her social media mentions that day were more than 11 times her year-to-date total of 1,142.
Interestingly, the total for Palin in social media rose even further the day after the announcement, to 15,022 mentions on August 30, while Biden’s fell the day after his announcement, to 5,823. In mainstream media, for both candidates the number of mentions fell the day after the candidate was announced.
Methodology: Mainstream press sources include more than 6,000 newspapers, wires, magazines, radio and TV transcripts and more than 13,000 current-awareness news Web sites. Social media sources include 2 million of the most influential blogs and more than 60,000 message boards.