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Scott Walker Dominates 2011 Media Coverage of Gubernatorial Politics

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Wisconsin governor has been mentioned in 26 percent of cable TV gubernatorial news stories in 2011 - more than 42 other governors combined

The theater unfolding for more than two weeks in Wisconsin has not only elevated the issue of unions and collective bargaining rights to the forefront of the national political discourse, it has also introduced the country to the play's central character - first term Republican Governor Scott Walker.

Few governors have made such a swift and grand entrance onto the main stage as has Walker in his debut this year.

And how much has Walker saturated the national news?

A Smart Politics analysis of CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC transcripts from January 1st through March 1st of this year finds that Governor Walker was mentioned in more than 25 percent of newscasts on gubernatorial politics during this two-month period - more than 42 other governors combined.

Governor Walker was also covered more frequently than any of his colleagues around the country in the nation's major newspapers and wire services. A review of gubernatorial news stories in the New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today and wire service reports by the Associated Press and UPI found Walker led gubernatorial coverage with over 15 percent - 44 percent more than his nearest competitor.

Although the period under investigation covers two full months, nearly all mentions of Walker have taken place since February 16th.

More than 91 percent of cable television newscasts mentioning Walker have occurred during the last two weeks (272 of 297 reports) as well as more than 85 percent of print and wire reports (170 of 199).

Prior to assuming office in 2011, Walker had only been mentioned in 23 cable TV reports.

Walker's surge in media attention on cable TV has now put him well ahead for the year to date of governors who are potential (or simply rumored) Republican presidential candidates, such as Chris Christie of New Jersey at #2 (mentioned in 168 reports, 14.7 percent), Mitch Daniels of Indiana at #3 (94, 8.2 percent), Haley Barbour of Mississippi at #5 (68, 5.9 percent), and Rick Perry of Texas at #10 (21, 1.8 percent).

Rounding out the Top 10 are Jan Brewer of Arizona at #4 (79 reports, 6.9 percent), John Kasich of Ohio at #6 (66, 5.8 percent), Jerry Brown of California at #7 (65, 5.7 percent), Rick Scott of Florida at #8 (59, 5.1 percent), and Andrew Cuomo of New York at #9 (40, 3.5 percent).

Walker has so dominated the landscape of cable television gubernatorial media reporting that his coverage in 199 reports is greater than the total of 42 other governors combined:

Andrew Cuomo (NY), Rick Perry (TX), Martin O'Malley (MD), Pat Quinn (IL), Nikki Haley (SC), Bob McDonnell (VA), Robert Bentley (AL), Paul Le Page (ME), Bobby Jindal (LA), Rick Snyder (MI), Mark Dayton (MN), Jay Nixon (MO), Terry Branstad (IA), Brian Sandoval (NV), Sean Parnell (AK), Dan Malloy (CT), Deval Patrick (MA), Brian Schweitzer (MT), Susana Martinez (NM), Mary Fallin (OK), Dave Heineman (NE), Tom Corbett (PA), Gary Herbert (UT), Matt Mead (WY), Nathan Deal (GA), Neil Abercrombie (HI), Sam Brownback (KS), Steve Beshear (KY), Lincoln Chafee (RI), Bill Haslam (TN), John Hickenlooper (CO), Butch Otter (ID), John Lynch (NH), Jack Dalrymple (ND), Mike Beebe (AR), Jack Markell (DE), Beverly Perdue (NC), John Kitzhaber (OR), Dennis Daugaard (SD), Peter Shumlin (VT), Christine Gregoire (WA), and Earl Ray Tomblin (WV).

These 42 governors were mentioned in 250 reports - 47 less than Walker.

Cable TV Gubernatorial News Coverage by Governor, 2011

Rank
Governor
State
Party
Total
%
1
Scott Walker
WI
GOP
297
25.9
2
Chris Christie
NJ
GOP
168
14.7
3
Mitch Daniels
IN
GOP
94
8.2
4
Jan Brewer
AZ
GOP
79
6.9
5
Haley Barbour
MS
GOP
68
5.9
6
John Kasich
OH
GOP
66
5.8
7
Jerry Brown
CA
Dem
65
5.7
8
Rick Scott
FL
GOP
59
5.1
9
Andrew Cuomo
NY
Dem
40
3.5
10
Rick Perry
TX
GOP
21
1.8
11
Martin O'Malley
MD
Dem
17
1.5
12
Pat Quinn
IL
Dem
15
1.3
12
Nikki Haley
SC
GOP
15
1.3
12
Bob McDonnell
VA
GOP
15
1.3
15
Robert Bentley
AL
GOP
11
1.0
15
Paul LePage
ME
GOP
11
1.0
17
Bobby Jindal
LA
GOP
8
0.7
17
Rick Snyder
MI
GOP
8
0.7
17
Mark Dayton
MN
DFL
8
0.7
20
Jay Nixon
MO
Dem
7
0.6
21
Terry Branstad
IA
GOP
6
0.5
21
Brian Sandoval
NV
GOP
6
0.5
23
Sean Parnell
AK
GOP
5
0.4
23
Dan Malloy
CT
Dem
5
0.4
23
Deval Patrick
MA
Dem
5
0.4
23
Brian Schweitzer
MT
Dem
5
0.4
23
Susana Martinez
NM
GOP
5
0.4
23
Mary Fallin
OK
GOP
5
0.4
29
Dave Heineman
NE
GOP
4
0.3
29
Tom Corbett
PA
GOP
4
0.3
29
Gary Herbert
UT
GOP
4
0.3
29
Matt Mead
WY
GOP
4
0.3
33
Nathan Deal
GA
GOP
2
0.2
33
Neil Abercrombie
HA
Dem
2
0.2
33
Sam Brownback
KS
GOP
2
0.2
33
Steve Beshear
KY
Dem
2
0.2
33
Lincoln Chafee
RI
Ind.
2
0.2
33
Bill Haslam
TN
GOP
2
0.2
39
John Hickenlooper
CO
Dem
1
0.1
39
Butch Otter
ID
GOP
1
0.1
39
John Lynch
NH
Dem
1
0.1
39
Jack Dalrymple
ND
GOP
1
0.1
43
Mike Beebe
AR
Dem
0
0.0
43
Jack Markell
DE
Dem
0
0.0
43
Beverly Perdue
NC
Dem
0
0.0
43
John Kitzhaber
OR
Dem
0
0.0
43
Dennis Daugaard
SD
GOP
0
0.0
43
Peter Shumlin
VT
Dem
0
0.0
43
Christine Gregoire
WA
Dem
0
0.0
43
Earl Ray Tomblin
WV
Dem
0
0.0
Table denotes number of news stories with mentions of current governors by party. Data compiled by Smart Politics from Lexis-Nexis cable television news transcript searches of CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC from January 1, 2011 through March 1, 2011.

Overall, Republicans hold 29 of the 50 governorships across the country, or 58 percent, while Democrats hold 20 (40 percent), and independents hold one (Rhode Island, 2 percent).

Republican governors, however, held the Top 6, and 8 of the Top 10 spots in cable TV news coverage so far this year.

In total, Republican governors have been mentioned in 85 percent of CNN, FOX, and MSNBC gubernatorial news reports, compared to just 15 percent for Democrats, or more than a 5:1 ratio.

However, while newscasts on GOP executives were disproportionately high overall, the differences were slight between the three main cable news networks.

Republican governors were mentioned in 90 percent of MSNBC's news stories on gubernatorial politics, compared to 85 percent for FOX, and 82 percent for CNN.

Gubernatorial News Coverage by Party by Cable TV Network, 2011

Party
CNN
FOX
MSNBC
Total
Republican
427
301
243
971
Democrat
94
52
27
173
Independent
1
1
0
2
Total
522
354
270
1,146
% Republican
81.8
85.0
90.0
84.7
Table denotes number of news stories with mentions of current governors. Data compiled by Smart Politics from Lexis-Nexis cable television news transcript searches of CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC from January 1, 2011 through March 1, 2011.

Print and Wire Service Reports

Walker also rules the roost on the print and wire service front in 2011, despite a homefield advantage by Andrew Cuomo and, to some extent, Chris Christie (in the New York Times) and Martin O'Malley (in the Washington Post).

Walker has been mentioned in 199 stories in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Associated Press, and UPI during the first two months of this year - more than 60 stories higher than Cuomo, who came in at #2 (138 stories), and more than 70 stories higher than Christie at #3 (127). (Cuomo was covered in 100 stories in the Times with Christie at 57).

Rounding out the Top 10 are California's Jerry Brown at #4 (89 stories), Mississippi's Haley Barbour at #5 (80), Indiana's Mitch Daniels at #6 (74), Maryland's O'Malley at #7 (60), Texas' Rick Perry at #8 (59), Florida's Rick Scott at #9 (46), and Illinois' Pat Quinn at #10 (43).

Walker is the aberration in the bunch as the only governor in the Top 10 who is not a rumored GOP presidential candidate (Barbour, Daniels, Perry, Christie), governing one of the five most populous states in the nation (Cuomo, Brown, Perry, Scott, Quinn), or governing a state that is captured by the local media coverage of one of these national print publications (Cuomo, Christie, O'Malley).

Print and wire coverage was much closer in proportion to the partisan breakdown of governors in office across the country than on cable TV: 65 percent for Republican governors and 34 percent for Democratic governors.

Major Newspaper and Wire Service Gubernatorial News Coverage by Governor, 2011

Rank
Governor
State
Party
Total
%
1
Scott Walker
WI
GOP
199
15.1
2
Andrew Cuomo*
NY
Dem
138
10.5
3
Chris Christie*
NJ
GOP
127
9.7
4
Jerry Brown
CA
Dem
89
6.8
5
Haley Barbour
MS
GOP
80
6.1
6
Mitch Daniels
IN
GOP
74
5.6
7
Martin O'Malley**
MD
Dem
60
4.6
8
Rick Perry
TX
GOP
59
4.5
9
Rick Scott
FL
GOP
46
3.5
10
Pat Quinn
IL
Dem
43
3.3
11
Jan Brewer
AZ
GOP
42
3.2
12
John Kasich
OH
GOP
40
3.0
13
Rick Snyder
MI
GOP
19
1.4
14
Tom Corbett
PA
GOP
18
1.4
15
Bob McDonnell
VA
GOP
16
1.2
15
Deval Patrick
MA
Dem
16
1.2
17
Nathan Deal
GA
GOP
15
1.1
17
Paul LePage
ME
GOP
15
1.1
19
Sam Brownback
KS
GOP
14
1.1
19
Nikki Haley
SC
GOP
14
1.1
21
Mark Dayton
MN
DFL
13
1.0
21
Brian Schweitzer
MT
Dem
13
1.0
23
Christine Gregoire
WA
Dem
12
0.9
24
Robert Bentley
AL
GOP
11
0.8
24
Susana Martinez
NM
GOP
11
0.8
26
Neil Abercrombie
HA
Dem
10
0.8
26
Sean Parnell
AK
GOP
10
0.8
28
Terry Branstad
IA
GOP
9
0.7
28
Brian Sandoval
NV
GOP
9
0.7
28
Mary Fallin
OK
GOP
9
0.7
28
Jay Nixon
MO
Dem
9
0.7
32
Mike Beebe
AR
Dem
8
0.6
33
John Hickenlooper
CO
Dem
7
0.5
33
Dan Malloy
CT
Dem
7
0.5
33
John Kitzhaber
OR
Dem
7
0.5
33
Lincoln Chafee
RI
Ind.
7
0.5
37
Peter Shumlin
VT
Dem
6
0.5
38
Bobby Jindal
LA
GOP
5
0.4
38
Dave Heineman
NE
GOP
5
0.4
40
Earl Ray Tomblin
WV
Dem
4
0.3
41
Bill Haslam
TN
GOP
3
0.2
41
Matt Mead
WY
GOP
3
0.2
41
Butch Otter
ID
GOP
3
0.2
41
John Lynch
NH
Dem
3
0.2
45
Jack Dalrymple
ND
GOP
2
0.2
45
Steve Beshear
KY
Dem
2
0.2
47
Dennis Daugaard
SD
GOP
1
0.1
47
Beverly Perdue
NC
Dem
1
0.1
47
Gary Herbert
UT
GOP
1
0.1
50
Jack Markell
DE
Dem
0
0.0
Table denotes number of news stories with mentions of each governor, and percentage overall. Data compiled by Smart Politics from Lexis-Nexis print and wire service news report searches of the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Associated Press, and UPI from January 1, 2011 through March 1, 2011. Associated Press coverage excludes Associated Press State and Local wire reports. * New York and New Jersey gubernatorial coverage partially inflated due to inclusion of New York Times as media source. ** Maryland gubernatorial coverage inflated due to inclusion of Washington Post.

With the situation in Madison still playing out, Walker will likely pad his media numbers for the days (or weeks) to come.

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