"I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes," said Barack Obama last week. It was a reference to the aggressive campaigning before the Jan. 26 South Carolina Democratic primary by both Hillary and Bill Clinton.
Last week's election coverage suggests he had a point. Although the landslide winner in South Carolina was the leading newsmaker of the week, he was certainly outdone in the race for media exposure by the Clinton tag team.
Obama edged Hillary Clinton by the narrowest of margins. But her surrogate and husband -- whose aggressive attacks on Obama and increasingly conspicuous role have been manna for political pundits -- was the third-most prominent newsmaker in the race for president last week, January 21 through 27. That period began two days after the Nevada caucuses and ended the day after the Democrats' South Carolina primary.
The man who would be First Spouse made more news last week than any Republican, or than the other Democratic contender, John Edwards.
Among GOP rivals, Mitt Romney, a co-leader in many Florida polls, dropped precipitously in the race for exposure. So did Mike Huckabee, whose candidacy the media now appear to discount.
And Rudolph Giuliani was back, his coverage more than tripling from the week before, despite plunging in the polls -- a sign that media coverage and poll numbers do not necessarily track.
Some candidates apparently are a good story whether they are rising or falling.
These are some of the findings from Project for Excellence in Journalism's third edition of the Campaign Coverage Index, a measure of which candidate is winning in the all-important race for media exposure. The project will run the Index until nominees are selected in each party.
Obama, who ended the week of Jan. 21-27 with a surprisingly big win in South Carolina, was a significant or dominant newsmaker in 41% of the week's campaign coverage. That marks his highest coverage level in the three weeks since the Project began its CCI and the first time he has edged Clinton.
Read the full report Clinton Finishes Third in Battle for Campaign Coverage (But it's Bill!!!) on the Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.