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McCain, Rubio, GOP Dominate Broadcast Media Coverage of US Senators in 2012

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Republican senators are mentioned in more than twice as many news stories as their Democratic counterparts with John McCain and Marco Rubio leading the GOP to eight of the Top 10 slots

johnmccain10.jpgThey don't chair any committees and none of them ran for president this cycle.

In fact, only six are currently running for reelection to their seat in 2012.

But that has not stopped Republican U.S. Senators from dominating the media coverage among members of the nation's upper legislative chamber so far this year.

And it's not even close.

A Smart Politics review of broadcast media transcripts by ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, NBC, and NPR for the first six months of 2012 finds that Republican U.S. Senators have been mentioned in more than twice as many news stories as their Democratic counterparts with John McCain leading the field at more than 10 stories per day.

The U.S Senate's 100 members were mentioned at least once in more than 8,500 news stories across these seven broadcast outlets under analysis.

Republicans were most commonly referenced, holding eight of the Top 10 slots and 17 of the Top 25.

All told, the GOP senators were mentioned in 5,894 stories compared to just 2,672 for the Democrats, or 121 percent more stories.

(Note: This analysis did not code for the type of coverage each senator received (i.e. content) nor is the data weighted by multiple mentions of a senator within a single news story).

At the top of the list was a senator who has frequently been called a "media darling" ever since his first presidential run 12 years ago - Arizona's John McCain.

McCain, who does not hold a GOP leadership position, was mentioned in 1,958 news stories during the first 182 days of the year - or an average of 10.8 stories per day.

No other senator from either party received even half this amount of attention.

The next closet senator is one of the most junior members of the legislative body - Florida's Marco Rubio - who was mentioned in 830 stories, or an average of 4.6 per day.

Rubio has been a buzzworthy U.S. Senator ever since taking office in January 2011, and his name has been frequently dropped as a potential 2012 vice presidential nominee for the party during the year which boosted his media profile.

Other Republicans from the U.S. Senate who have been in Mitt Romney's fishbowl of possible running mates include Ohio's Rob Portman who came in at #7 (202 stories), Kentucky's Rand Paul at #8 (198), New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte at #21 (90), and South Dakota's John Thune at #22 (87).

Senator Rubio has garnered almost twice the amount of attention so far this year as the most powerful man in the U.S. Senate - Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Nevada's senior senator was mentioned in 448 stories through the first six months of the year, or an average 2.5 per day across the seven outlets under analysis, good for third place overall.

Besides Reid, the only other Democrat to appear in the Top 10 is 2004 Democratic presidential nominee and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry at #4, who was mentioned in 430 stories.

Rounding out the Top 10 are Kentucky U.S. Senator and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at #5 (366 stories), South Carolina's Lindsey Graham at #6 (204), Portman at #7 (202), Paul at #8 (198), South Carolina's Jim DeMint at #9 (191), and Massachusetts' Scott Brown at #10 (180).

Republican U.S. Senators receiving stiff intra-party challenges this cycle also received significant coverage with Indiana's Dick Lugar at #15 (151 stories) and Utah's Orrin Hatch at #17 (118).

Senator McCain's high ranking in media coverage has been due in part to multiple references in news stories to his performance in the 2008 election cycle when he was the Republican Party's presidential nominee.

(The same holds true - to a lesser extent - for John Kerry coming in at #4).

But McCain has also been a point man for the media on issues related to foreign affairs and immigration.

Although an elite group, the U.S. Senate is still a very large body and not every member gets noticed by the media.

Less than 20 U.S. Senators were mentioned in 100+ stories across these seven media outlets, less than 40 appeared in 50 news stories, and one-quarter of the chamber failed to get mentioned in 10 news stories during this six-month period.

Many in that latter grouping were senators from states with small populations.

No senator ranking in the Bottom 9 slots came from a state with 10 or more Electoral College votes: Republicans Jim Risch (Idaho), John Boozman (Arkansas), Thad Cochran (Mississippi), Roger Wicker (Mississippi), and Mike Enzi (Wyoming) and Democrats Jeff Bingaman (New Mexico), Tom Udall (New Mexico), and Daniel Akaka (Hawaii).

The focus on Republican senators over their Democratic counterparts was pervasive with GOPers mentioned at nearly twice the rate of Democrats across the board with NPR (at 1.89 to 1), MSNBC (1.99 to 1), and FOX (2.01) having the least partisan disparity on this scale.

ABC (3.83 to 1), CNN (2.53 to 1), NBC (2.33 to 1), and CBS (2.07) demonstrated a greater focus on the GOP officeholders.

U.S. Senator Mentions in Broadcast Media Reports, January-June 2012

Rank
State
Senator
Party
Reports
1
Arizona
John McCain
Republican
1,958
2
Florida
Marco Rubio
Republican
830
3
Nevada
Harry Reid
Democrat
448
4
Massachusetts
John Kerry
Democrat
430
5
Kentucky
Mitch McConnell
Republican
366
6
South Carolina
Lindsey Graham
Republican
204
7
Ohio
Rob Portman
Republican
202
8
Kentucky
Rand Paul
Republican
198
9
South Carolina
Jim DeMint
Republican
191
10
Massachusetts
Scott Brown
Republican
180
11
Iowa
Chuck Grassley
Republican
174
12
Connecticut
Joe Lieberman
Ind-Dem
162
13
New York
Chuck Schumer
Democrat
157
14
California
Dianne Feinstein
Democrat
155
15
Indiana
Dick Lugar
Republican
151
16
Maine
Olympia Snowe
Republican
121
17
Oklahoma
Tom Coburn
Republican
118
17
Utah
Orrin Hatch
Republican
118
19
Maine
Susan Collins
Republican
117
20
Illinois
Dick Durbin
Democrat
99
21
New Hampshire
Kelly Ayotte
Republican
90
22
South Dakota
John Thune
Republican
87
23
California
Barbara Boxer
Democrat
74
24
Pennsylvania
Bob Casey
Democrat
71
25
Wisconsin
Ron Johnson
Republican
67
26
Missouri
Claire McCaskill
Democrat
66
27
Alabama
Jeff Sessions
Republican
61
27
Missouri
Roy Blunt
Republican
61
29
Michigan
Carl Levin
Democrat
60
29
New York
Kirsten Gillibrand
Democrat
60
29
Texas
John Cornyn
Republican
60
32
Vermont
Bernie Sanders
Independent
57
33
Virginia
Mark Warner
Democrat
54
34
Arizona
Jon Kyl
Republican
51
34
Pennsylvania
Pat Toomey
Republican
51
34
Utah
Mike Lee
Republican
51
34
Vermont
Patrick Leahy
Democrat
51
38
Ohio
Sherrod Brown
Democrat
50
39
Washington
Patty Murray
Democrat
49
40
Alaska
Lisa Murkowski
Republican
48
40
West Virginia
Joe Manchin
Democrat
48
42
Nebraska
Ben Nelson
Democrat
43
43
Oklahoma
James Inhofe
Republican
42
44
Florida
Bill Nelson
Democrat
40
44
Wyoming
John Barrasso
Republican
40
46
Texas
Kay Bailey Hutchison
Republican
37
47
New Jersey
Robert Menendez
Democrat
36
47
North Dakota
Kent Conrad
Democrat
36
49
Georgia
Saxby Chambliss
Republican
34
50
Oregon
Ron Wyden
Democrat
32
51
Minnesota
Al Franken
Democrat
27
52
Illinois
Mark Kirk
Republican
26
52
Montana
Jon Tester
Democrat
26
54
New Jersey
Frank Lautenberg
Democrat
25
54
Rhode Island
Sheldon Whitehouse
Democrat
25
54
Tennessee
Bob Corker
Republican
25
57
Michigan
Debbie Stabenow
Democrat
24
58
Connecticut
Richard Blumenthal
Democrat
23
58
Maryland
Barbara Mikulski
Democrat
23
60
Montana
Max Baucus
Democrat
22
61
Iowa
Tom Harkin
Democrat
21
61
Louisiana
David Vitter
Republican
21
63
Minnesota
Amy Klobuchar
Democrat
17
64
Alabama
Richard Shelby
Republican
14
64
Tennessee
Lamar Alexander
Republican
14
66
Indiana
Dan Coats
Republican
13
67
Arkansas
Mark Pryor
Democrat
12
67
New Hampshire
Jeanne Shaheen
Democrat
12
67
Oregon
Jeff Merkley
Democrat
12
67
South Dakota
Tim Johnson
Democrat
12
71
Idaho
Mike Crapo
Republican
10
71
Nevada
Dean Heller
Republican
10
71
Rhode Island
Jack Reed
Democrat
10
71
Virginia
Jim Webb
Democrat
10
75
Colorado
Michael Bennet
Democrat
9
75
Colorado
Mark Udall
Democrat
9
75
Delaware
Chris Coons
Democrat
9
75
Louisiana
Mary Landrieu
Democrat
9
75
Maryland
Ben Cardin
Democrat
9
75
North Carolina
Richard Burr
Republican
9
75
Washington
Maria Cantwell
Democrat
9
82
Alaska
Mark Begich
Democrat
8
82
Georgia
Johnny Isakson
Republican
8
82
Kansas
Jerry Moran
Republican
8
82
Nebraska
Mike Johanns
Republican
8
86
Delaware
Tom Carper
Democrat
6
86
Kansas
Pat Roberts
Republican
6
86
North Dakota
John Hoeven
Republican
6
86
West Virginia
Jay Rockefeller
Democrat
6
90
North Carolina
Kay Hagan
Democrat
5
90
Wisconsin
Herb Kohl
Democrat
5
92
Idaho
Jim Risch
Republican
4
93
New Mexico
Jeff Bingaman
Democrat
3
93
New Mexico
Tom Udall
Democrat
3
95
Hawaii
Daniel Akaka
Democrat
2
96
Arkansas
John Boozman
Republican
1
96
Hawaii
Daniel Inouye
Democrat
1
96
Mississippi
Thad Cochran
Republican
1
96
Mississippi
Roger Wicker
Republican
1
96
Wyoming
Mike Enzi
Republican
1
Table compiled by Smart Politics with data culled from Lexis/Nexis news transcripts of ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, NBC, and NPR. Note: Not all MSNBC news programs are indexed by Lexis/Nexis.

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2 Comments


  • When you include every cable network, local newscasts in all 210 U.S. TV markets, and news/talk radio stations in Arbitron’s top 50 markets, here’s the airplay over the past week:

    Harry Reid – 2,690 mentions
    Marco Rubio – 1,913 mentions
    John McCain – 1,897 mentions
    John Kerry – 617 mentions

    I used a Critical Mention widget we’ve dubbed the Mention Meter to gather the data.

    Thanks for sharing your research, Eric.

    Dave Armon
    President, Critical Mention

  • Looks like Kentucky leads the pack with both its senators in the top 8.

  • Leave a comment


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