February 1, 2007

Clinton and Obama Hog the Headlines

Presidential Hopefuls Google News Stories
Hillary Clinton 25201
Barack Obama 19496
Mitt Romney 7102
Bill Richardson 6770
Chris Dodd 5792
Sam Brownback 4149
Duncan Hunter 1597
Tom Tancredo 1393
James Gilmore 93

If you get the feeling that thus far, the embryonic 2008 presidential race is a contest between two people, a famous wife and Senator and a charismatic freshman legislator, that’s a sign you’re actually following the coverage.

In the wide-open race for the White House, 20 hopefuls have already announced their candidacy or established an exploratory committee. (Those stats and candidates courtesy of CQ.) But it’s the two Democratic senators looking to break down the gender and race barriers—Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama—who are siphoning off most of the media oxygen.

Everyone else, including some notable Republicans, are trailing badly in the battle for clips.

To gauge the level of press interest, PEJ conducted a search of Google News for stories with the candidate’s name in the week after his or her entry into the race. (Because of search problems, we were only able to select candidates who announced in 2007.) Hilary (and Hillary Rodham) Clinton—the powerful and polarizing former First Lady—is leading in this early derby for media attention. She turned up in a tidy 25,201 stories in the seven days following her January 20 announcement. Her closest challenger—the charismatic, if inexperienced Obama—came in next at 19,496—but that is more than 28% fewer stories.

After that, there was a huge drop off to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (at 6,770) and Connecticut Senator Christopher (or Chris) Dodd at 5,792—two well known party figures who couldn’t compete with the frontrunners in the media buzz department.

On the Republican side, two of the biggest names—including Senator John McCain and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani—were not included in the search because they formed exploratory committees last year. That left former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, mentioned in 7,102 stories, as the top GOP attention-getter. That put him ahead of Bill Richardson, but not in the league of the media darlings.

Romney was trailed by Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, who announced on January 20, with 4,149.

After that, there was a steep decline to California Congressman Duncan Hunter (1,597), Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo (1,393). Former Virginia governor James. S. Gilmore III failed to break triple digits (93).

There are a few candidates, however, who didn’t get the full seven-day Google search, but showed some media drawing power. The search was only able to pick up the last four days of former Democratic senator John Edwards’s coverage (he announced on Dec. 28). But he appaeared in 6,911 stories, a fairly strong showing. Republican and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee turned up in 1,463 stories in the first three days after announcing his intent to set up an exploratory committee on January 28.

Of course, media attention does not translate into votes. But, the public doesn’t actually get to do any of that for another year.

(For those of you looking to win barroom bets or simply amuse your friends at parties, the full list of candidates on the Democratic side is: Dodd, Edwards, Obama, Clinton, Richardson, former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, former Alaska senator Mike Gravel and Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, who jumped in on January 31. The Republican contenders are Brownback, McCain, Giuliani, Romney, Hunter, Tancredo, Huckabee, Gilmore, Illinois attorney John Cox, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, and former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson.)