The first story on the April 3 edition of NBC's “Today” show was media manna for Mitt Romney. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reported that the former Massachusetts governor had raised $20 million in the first quarter of 2007 to outpace rivals, calling it “the big surprise on the Republican side.”
“Romney,” she added, “is now the undisputed winner of the money primary.”
The next evening, Charlie Gibson led ABC's nightly newscast by trumpeting the news on the Democratic side. Senator Barack Obama had collected $25 million to trail frontrunner Hillary Clinton by only $1 million. “Tonight, Barack Obama's extraordinary fundraising windfall,” Gibson declared, “shattering expectations and shaking up the presidential race.”
Nine months before any citizen casts a vote, what was once called the “invisible” or media primary for the 2008 presidential race is well underway. Only now it is hardly invisible.
Last week's first quarter fundraising statistics were not treated as a minor inside story about money, for instance, but as a major milestone for establishing frontrunners and expectations. Romney and Obama, by exceeding those expectations, were the big winners. McCain and Clinton were, by media calculations at least, the losers.
With dollars driving the narrative, the campaign was the second biggest story last week, filling 10% of the overall newshole for the week of April 1-6, 2007, according to PEJ's News Coverage Index.
Read the full article and view charts on the Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.