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Covering the Anti-Romney: A Five-Month Week-by-Week Media Analysis of the GOP Field

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Mitt Romney has been mentioned in the most broadcast reports among the Republican field for just four of the last 22 weeks

mittromney11.jpgIf Republican primary voters are to be accused of still searching for the "anti-Romney," the same can certainly be said of the broadcast media as they cover the various arcs of the presidential campaign.

For although the former Massachusetts governor has ranked consistently at or near the top of the national polls throughout his candidacy, on a week-to-week basis Romney usually lags behind one or more of his fellow 2012 White House hopefuls in terms of media coverage.

And this has been the case dating all the way back to June.

A Smart Politics week-by-week analysis of ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and NPR broadcast media transcripts finds that since late June, Mitt Romney has been mentioned in the most reports among the 2012 Republican candidates for just four of these 22 weeks.

Which is not to say Romney has been ignored.

In fact, the perennial GOP frontrunner has been mentioned in the most news reports overall during this five-month span at 3,355 - barely edging out Rick Perry (mentioned in 3,235 reports, even though he did not announce his candidacy until the seventh week under analysis).

However, Romney has been consistently overshadowed nearly every week by one of the "anti-Romney" candidates vying for co-frontrunner status.

Rick Perry has been mentioned in the most broadcast reports for eight weeks, with Michele Bachmann on top six times, followed by Herman Cain with four and Romney with four.

These numbers contrast sharply with the amount of attention Romney has consistently commanded during the GOP debates, during which he has frequently tallied many more minutes of speaking time over the other candidates.

Bachmann was mentioned in the most media reports during the first five weeks of her candidacy (June 26-July 2, July 3-9, July 10-16, July 24-30) - with her name brought up in 626 news reports during that span compared to just 388 reports for Romney.

The next closest candidate was former Minnesota Governor (and ex-candidate) Tim Pawlenty with 230.

Romney edged Bachmann during the week of July 31-August 6, with the Minnesota Congresswoman back on top for a sixth time during the week of her Iowa Straw Poll victory (August 7-13).

Rick Perry's emergence into the Republican race on the day of the Straw Poll put a quick damper on Bachmann's momentum in the polls and - at the same time - the media coverage of her campaign.

For each of the next seven weeks through October 1st, Perry would be brought up in the largest number of broadcast reports of any candidate in the GOP field - tallying 1,297 reports compared to 1,045 for Romney and 828 for Bachmann.

No other candidate reached 500.

As the media transitioned its focus from Perry to the surging Herman Cain over the next two weeks, Romney edged out each candidate with 210 reports mentioning Romney, Cain at 202, and Perry at 194 from October 2-8, and 259 reports for Romney, 254 for Cain, and 239 for Perry from October 9-15.

With his high poll numbers (and subsequent sexual harassment scandal), Cain was the most mentioned candidate in the GOP field for four of the next five weeks: October 16-22, October 30-November 5, November 6-12, and November 13-19.

Perry enjoyed a brief resurgence to the top during the week of October 23-29 when he unveiled his economic and tax plans.

Both Perry (125) and Cain (131) dropped behind Newt Gingrich (170) during the last full week of the month, November 20-26, with Romney (184) on top for just the fourth time since late June.

A book tour has boosted Bachmann's numbers a bit, but the congresswoman remains in the fifth slot over each of the last two weeks.

But the candidate who the media has neglected the most relative to his standing in the polls is Ron Paul.

Congressman Paul has outpolled Michele Bachmann in 38 of the 61 national polls conducted during this five-month window, but Bachmann has been mentioned in twice as many reports (2,529 to 1,250) including every week under analysis.

Paul has also outpolled Gingrich 31 to 26 with four ties in these 61 surveys, with the former House Speaker receiving nine percent more coverage during these 22 weeks.

Paul has even polled ahead of Rick Perry five times and tied him in three other surveys.

Since late June Paul has never received more than the fourth most coverage in a single week among the 2012 White House hopefuls, falling to 5th four times, to 6th six times, to 7th three times, to 8th once, and to 9th once.

Note: This study is a gauge of relative breadth of media coverage of the candidates, though not relative depth (although the two are likely highly correlated).

Week-by-Week Broadcast Reports Mentioning 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates, June 26-November 26

Week
Romney
Perry
Cain
Bach
Ging
Paul
Hunt
Sant
June 26-July 2
128
40*
54
186
34
26
34
15
July 3-9
60
34*
20
69
20
17
25
19
July 10-16
86
30*
20
156
42
35
12
26
July 17-23
70
64*
31
134
20
12
15
17
July 24-30
44
39*
10
81
32
23
15
7
July 31-Aug. 6
88
42*
13
83
32
18
39
17
Aug. 7-13
161
166
71
177
62
85
50
77
Aug. 14-20
172
256
37
186
29
95
38
51
Aug. 21-27
86
106
9
78
13
46
46
12
Aug. 28-Sept. 3
114
133
11
97
10
58
44
13
Sept. 4-10
201
214
49
138
64
87
62
28
Sept. 11-17
142
191
54
146
46
77
67
49
Sept. 18-24
155
210
32
103
36
48
40
40
Sept. 25-Oct. 1
175
187
157
80
45
58
29
29
Oct. 2-8
210
194
202
68
38
62
20
35
Oct. 9-15
259
239
254
129
67
60
90
76
Oct. 16-22
238
207
256
143
96
82
49
86
Oct. 23-29
212
231
217
102
94
79
37
45
Oct. 30-Nov. 5
170
174
305
71
86
43
24
33
Nov. 6-12
220
196
315
78
130
65
45
36
Nov. 13-19
180
157
226
115
199
83
48
43
Nov. 20-26
184
125
131
109
170
91
74
64
Total
3,355
3,235
2,474
2,529
1,365
1,250
903
818
* Perry did not enter the GOP race until August 13th. Tim Pawlenty's weekly numbers from the end of June until his exit the week of August 14: 58, 39, 55, 45, 33, 26, 115, 72. Weekly tallies measured from Sunday through Saturday through a Lexis/Nexis retrieval of broadcast transcripts of ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and NPR. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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