When Sen. John Kerry arrived in Boston for the last Democratic convention, the TV news stars thought they'd died and gone to political heaven. Dan Rather said Kerry's speech drove the crowd in Boston into "a 3,000-gallon attack about every three minutes," and Newsweek's Jon Meacham was comparing Kerry to Abraham Lincoln on MSNBC. If media liberals can get that excited over Kerry, viewers may have to worry about the anchors lapsing into diabetic comas over Barack Obama's ascension convention in Denver.
It's easy to forget just how "tick tight," as Rather once put it, the primary race was between Obama and Hillary Clinton. It ended up with a vote gap of just one tenth of a percentage point. The real difference-maker in the 2008 race was the Obama favoritism of the national media, led by the television networks. It was his margin of victory.
Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center spent weeks crunching numbers from an exhaustive study of ABC, CBS and NBC coverage of Barack Obama, from his first network soundbite in 2000 through the end of the primaries, a study of more than 1,300 stories. "Coverage" is too bland a word. "Anointing" might be more appropriate.
Obama received his best press when it mattered the most. How could someone with his utter lack of national expertise and name identification seem to become an overnight heavyweight? The networks showered praise on Obama for his convention keynote speech in 2004. Out of 81 total stories about Obama from 2004 up until his official kickoff in 2007, (SET ITAL) not one (END ITAL) was a negative report, critical of him. Not one.
Overall, the three broadcast networks gave Obama nearly seven times more good press than bad press. There have been 462 positive stories (34 percent of the total) compared to just 70 stories (or five percent) that were negative. The rest were classified as neutral. "NBC Nightly News" was the most aggressive, with 179 Obama-boosting stories, compared to just 17 negative ones, a 10-to-one margin. "CBS Evening News" was almost as bad, with a 156-to-21 gap between positive stories and negative ones.
When network reporters went looking for voters to interview, there was no effort exerted to achieve balance. Of 147 average citizens who expressed an on-camera opinion about Obama, 114 (78 percent) were pro-Obama, compared to just 28 (19 percent) that were negative, with the remaining five offering a mixed opinion. Obama wasn't winning primary elections over Mrs. Clinton by a 78-to-19 percent smackdown, but he clearly won the Average Joe soundbite primary.