November 2, 2010

The Midterms’ Media Mainstays

# of Stories
Barack Obama* 343
Christine ODonnell 160
Meg Whitman 90
Rand Paul 88
Joe Sestak 85
Sharron Angle 80
Harry Reid 74
Charlie Crist 67
Blanche Lincoln 52
Carl Paladino 52
Jerry Brown 49

No. 2 – Rank of Christine O’Donnell among 2010 election newsmakers

With the U.S. economy and the role of government emerging as crucial issues in the midterm elections, it’s not surprising that President Obama has been the top newsmaker in the 2010 election coverage to date. According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, Obama and his administration led in 343 election stories from January 1-October 31, 2010. (To be a lead newsmaker, someone must be featured in at least 50% of a story.)

But the No. 2 campaign newsmaker rose from obscurity to become a household name in a matter of weeks, if not days. Christine O’Donnell, the tea party-backed candidate who won a stunning victory in Delaware’s GOP senate primary, dominated 160 election stories examined by PEJ. O’Donnell’s upset over Congressman Mike Castle—as well as her penchant for controversial statements (some of them well in the past) about everything from dabbling in witchcraft to the separation of church and state—has made her a media favorite.

Indeed, four of the 10 top election newsmakers are representatives of the tea party movement, which has emerged as a key element in the election narrative.  Kentucky GOP senate candidate Rand Paul ranked 4th (at 88 stories) and Nevada Republican Sharron Angle, who has mounted a very stiff challenge to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, ranked 6th (at 80 stories). (Reid is the No. 7 newsmaker, showing up prominently in 74 election stories). And Carl Paladino, the tea party’s GOP candidate for New York governor, is tied for ninth at 52 stories.

Two of the other top headline generators are involved in one of the more high profile races in the country—the hotly contested gubernatorial contest in California. Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate who has spent well over $100 million of her own money and who was ensnared in a controversy over an undocumented worker in her home, is the No. 3 newsmaker (90 stories.) Her opponent—veteran politician and former presidential candidate Jerry Brown who made news when someone attached to his campaign referred to Whitman in crude terms—finished in the tenth spot (49 stories.)

Pennsylvania’s Joe Sestak, who defeated party-switching incumbent Arlen Specter in the Democratic senate primary and is in a tough fight against Republican Pat Toomey, is the No. 5 newsmaker, at 85 stories.

*Includes Obama and Obama Administration as a newsmaker