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Ann Romney Eclipses Michelle Obama in Media Coverage

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The Hilary Rosen skirmish has propelled broadcast reports on Ann Romney to double those on the First Lady in April

annromney10.jpgFor most of the run-up to the primary election season, Ann Romney kept a relatively low media profile, or at least was of little interest to broadcast reporters and editors whose coverage of the Republican frontunner's spouse was fairly bareboned.

But now, buoyed in large part by Democratic commentator and strategist Hilary Rosen's comments last week (and Mrs. Romney's quick public response), in which Ms. Rosen said Anne Romney "never worked a day in her life," the wife of the former Massachusetts governor has catapulted ahead of Michelle Obama in broadcast news coverage for the first time since Mrs. Obama became First Lady in January 2009.

A Smart Politics study of broadcast media coverage finds more than twice as many reports in April have mentioned Ann Romney (107) than Michelle Obama (51) - with both women receiving a boost in coverage from the Hilary Rosen fallout.

Smart Politics tracked the number of media reports mentioning Ann Romney or Michelle Obama through Lexis/Nexis transcripts of seven major media outlets - ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, NBC, and NPR from January 2009 through April 14th.

Ann Romney was mentioned in only 10 such reports from 2009 through May 2011 - just before her husband officially launched his presidential campaign on June 2nd.

While she campaigned with the GOP frontrunner for a good deal of the next six months, she did not make much news, and was mentioned in only 19 broadcast reports from June through November of last year.

Then, as the primary season began to heat up in the run up to Iowa and New Hampshire, so too did coverage of Mrs. Romney - with 46 reports mentioning her in December 2011, 54 reports this January, 35 in February, 73 in March, and 107 through mid-April.

But the surge in attention on Ann Romney vis-à-vis the First Lady actually occurred before Rosen's comments on April 11th.

From March 1st until April 10th, Mrs. Romney had been mentioned in 115 broadcast reports compared to just 99 for Mrs. Obama.

Ann Romney has been mentioned in 65 reports during the first four days since Rosen made her comments on April 11th.

CNN, on whose network Rosen made the controversial comments, has led the Ann Romney coverage with 39 such reports in April - nearly double that of FOX, the next closest network with 20.

Of course, not all of the media attention on Ann Romney has been positive over the last four months - such as Mitt's blunder at a Michigan rally touting the two Cadillacs driven by his wife.

And while coverage of Ann Romney overall had been quite favorable prior to the Rosen comments, she had sometimes suffered by comparison with respect to Michelle Obama:

"Yes I mean, with respect to Ann Romney, there is no comparison with the First Lady who is -- who is heroic to so many people. I look up to her. She is a strong woman." - Pete Dominick, CNN (April 3, 2012)

But just as many have rushed to Mrs. Romney's defense over the past week, the Rosen comments have also had the effect of giving a boost to the First Lady's media presence.

Michelle Obama had seen a decline in the trajectory of her media coverage this year - from 167 reports in January, to 99 in February, to 76 in March.

During the first 10 days of April, Mrs. Obama was mentioned in 23 reports, on pace for just 69 for the month.

However, in just the first four days since the Rosen fallout, there were 28 reports mentioning the First Lady.

The media heavily covered Michelle Obama's reaction to the flare-up in which she tweeted: "Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected."

Overall, media coverage of Mrs. Obama had been declining significantly since her first year in the White House, during which reports mentioning her name fell from 2,371 in 2009, to 1,352 in 2010, to 1,093 in 2011.

That marks a drop of 43 percent from 2009 to 2010 and another 19 percent from 2010 to 2011.

Coverage on the First Lady during the first three and a half months of 2012 - an election year in which the wives of both major nominees will certainly take on a greater role in the public eye - is now higher than both 2010 and 2011.

Media Reports Mentioning Ann Romney and Michelle Obama, 2009-2012

Month
Michelle Obama
Ann Romney
January 2009
416
0
February 2009
243
1
March 2009
249
0
April 2009
349
0
May 2009
189
0
June 2009
151
0
July 2009
98
0
August 2009
65
0
September 2009
170
0
October 2009
206
0
November 2009
148
0
December 2009
87
0
January 2010
98
0
February 2010
137
0
March 2010
90
2
April 2010
100
0
May 2010
107
0
June 2010
42
1
July 2010
76
0
August 2010
118
0
September 2010
153
0
October 2010
227
0
November 2010
130
0
December 2010
74
0
January 2011
114
1
February 2011
126
1
March 2011
57
1
April 2011
115
0
May 2011
99
3
June 2011
154
3
July 2011
83
0
August 2011
37
0
September 2011
73
3
October 2011
81
11
November 2011
77
2
December 2011
77
46
January 2012
167
54
February 2012
99
35
March 2012
76
73
April 2012*
51
107
* Through April 14, 2012. Indicates the number of media reports mentioning Ann Romney and Michelle Obama by name respectively. Data compiled by Smart Politics from a Lexis/Nexis search of reports from ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, NBC, and NPR.

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2 Comments


  • It makes complete sense, Ann Romney is widely unknown while Michelle has nothing newsworthy going on in her life. The media is familiarizing us with Ann and it will take some time.

  • I hope Mitt Romney wins so that Ann will be the First Lady. She has a lot of class and a quiet elegance about her.

  • Leave a comment


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