PEJ Campaign Coverage Index: October 20 - 26, 2008, As the Candidates Head Down the Stretch, Horse Race Dominates

  • October 28, 2008

When Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama on the Oct. 19 edition of Meet the Press, it was a headline-grabbing event that drove the next day's news cycle. By midweek, however, the story had virtually vanished. When Joe Biden said that an international crisis would “test the mettle” of a new President Obama, the McCain camp quickly produced an ad jumping on the perceived gaffe. But that episode accounted for only about blip of the week's campaign coverage (about 1%).

Even Joe the Plumber—the Ohio man introduced at the Oct. 15 debate who instantly became a household name—edged toward anonymity last week, accounting for only 1% of the campaign coverage, one-eighth the attention he received the previous week, despite becoming a staple of McCain's stump speech and a focus of his new ads.

In the final days of the race for president, seemingly nothing but the algebra of the electoral map appears to have staying power.

As the days tick down toward Nov. 4 with the momentum clearly tilting toward Obama—and with the press searching intently for developments that could change that dynamic—stories appear to have a shorter shelf life, often flashing across the media radar screen in a matter of hours rather than days.

Indeed, no single narrative dominated last week's coverage. The top storyline, the fight over battleground states, accounted for 10% of the campaign newshole from Oct. 20-26, according to the Campaign Coverage Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. That's the lowest level of coverage for any leading weekly narrative since the general election campaign began in early June.

Read the full report As the Candidates Head Down the Stretch, Horse Race Dominates on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.