14 October 2008

Newly Discovered Phrases Confirm Campaigns’ Shift Toward the Personal

By Dow Jones Insight Staff

With McCain’s post-convention and post-Palin bounce in the polls essentially eliminated by the financial crisis, the McCain team has decided to focus instead on issues related to Obama’s background and character, and the Obama team has responded with some personal attacks of its own.

Over the past seven days, the majority of terms newly discovered by Dow Jones Insight as being used frequently in conjunction with McCain’s and Obama’s names involve former Weather Underground member William Ayers, and McCain’s and Palin’s various comments linking Ayers with Obama, as well as Obama’s effort to remind voters of McCain’s association with the savings and loan scandal of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Of the 10 most common terms discovered in proximity to Obama’s name in all tracked sources, four involve Ayers: “Ayers” was mentioned 5,075 times, “Bill Ayers” 4,215 times, “William Ayers” 3,157 times and “Weather” 1,752 times, for a total of 14,199 Ayers-related mentions. Other terms or phrases making the Obama list include “Kenya,” with 1,543 mentions, and “Muslim,” with 1,301, both reflecting attempts (by writers, if not necessarily by McCain) to portray Obama as less American than McCain as well as non-Christian, and “political career” (1,096), a term found in a very widely distributed Associated Press article about Obama fundraiser and real-estate developer Tony Rezko. Obama was also mentioned frequently with the term “Keating” (893), as his campaign fired back with some negative associations for McCain.

Newly discovered terms appearing in relation to McCain largely reflected coverage of his campaign’s efforts to tie Obama to Ayers as well as the Obama team’s subsequent efforts to remind voters of McCain’s history with the savings and loan crisis.

Of the 10 most common terms discovered in proximity to McCain’s name over the past seven days, three involve the Keating scandal – “Keating” (with 2,523 mentions), “Keating Five” (with 1,600) and “Charles Keating” (with 1,331) – while three involved Ayers – “Ayers” (with 1,813), “Bill Ayers” (with 1,656) and “William Ayers” (with 1,233).

Methodology: “Discovered” terms include commonly identified phrases not already tracked as subjects in the Dow Jones Insight presidential election platform. 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.

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