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“It’s Not The Polls, It’s The Ratings”: The Staggering Numbers Behind The Media’s Trump Obsession

2-to-1. 5-to-1. 10-to-1.

Those are some of the lopsided ratios that appear when you start examining just how imbalanced the campaign coverage has been in favor of Donald Trump this election cycle. And it’s not just that front-runner Trump is getting way more media time and attention than front-runner Hillary Clinton. It’s that Trump’s getting way more than Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

During March, the network evening newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC devoted a jaw-dropping 143 minutes to the Trump campaign, compared to just 26 minutes to the Clinton and Sanders runs, according to an analysis compiled by Andrew Tyndall, who’s been monitoring the evening newscasts for years. Specifically, on NBC Nightly News, 51 minutes were set aside for Trump last month, but just six minutes for Clinton and Sanders. (Two minutes for Clinton, four for Sanders.)

Meanwhile, in the last 30 days, CNN has mentioned Trump approximately 25,000 times according to the GDELT Project using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive. Clinton and Sanders? A relatively paltry 13,000 CNN mentions in comparison.

In terms of free media, Trump’s wall-to-wall coverage has earned him $1.9 billion worth of free media in nine months of campaign, according to the New York Times’ analysis, compared to $746 million for Clinton and $321 million for Sanders.

And during a one-week survey of online news campaign coverage overseen by University of Southern California researcher Ev Boyle, nearly 70 percent of the Washington Post homepage mentions of presidential candidates were for Trump, while the remaining five candidates — Republican and Democrat — accounted for just 30 percent of the mentions.

“Trump’s name appeared on the homepage 112 times across these 7 days, while Hillary Clinton’s name only appeared 13 times,” Boyle noted. “That’s almost 10 times more mentions of Trump than any other single candidate.”

There’s been lots of debate about whether the press “created” Trump’s front-runner status via its obsessive (and often subservient) coverage, or if voters themselves are solely responsible for his campaign success. But it’s also important to focus on the sheer tonnage of the Trump coverage and the wild inequity on display. (Even Fox News marvels at the “clear imbalance.”)

Overeager to portray Trump as a political phenomenon, the press has gorged on his campaign while often losing sight of the fact that perhaps the only true phenomenon has been just how much time and attention the press has decided to give to the Republican. (That, and how Trump has completely “bent television to his will.”)

The staggering imbalance comes in the face of new polling that shows Americans by a huge, bipartisan margin think Trump’s getting way too much press attention.

The disparity is also leading to tensions between supporters and the press. Over the weekend, hundreds of Sanders supporters protested outside CNN’s Los Angeles studios, demanding the candidate get more airtime. “Stop showing Trump so much,” one protester urged. “Stick to the issues.”

Keep in mind this endless buffet of Trump coverage comes at a time when the Republican campaign itself has essentially declared war on the media. When not allegedly assaulting the press, Trump’s team is herding them into pens while the candidate hurls endless insults their way.

We’re witnessing two extraordinary occurrences play out simultaneously: Nobody has ever treated the White House campaign press as badly as Trump, and nobody has ever been rewarded with more coverage than Trump.

So here’s the simple question that won’t go away: Why is the Republican front-runner often deemed to be four or five times more newsworthy than the Democratic front-runner? And why is the Republican front-runner constantly getting way more news coverage than both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, combined?

Statistics like the ones cited above badly undercut a favorite journalist defense that Trump’s massive amount of free media simply reflects his front-runner status. Note CNN chief Jeff Zucker has brushed off claims that the channel’s Trump coverage has been badly out of whack. “The front-runner of the party is always going to get a disproportionate amount of attention,” he said. (There’s too much “handwringing” about Trump coverage, Zucker reportedly told CNN employees.)

But again, why does the likely Republican nominee land almost twice as many mentions on CNN as Clinton and Sanders combined? Especially when current polling indicates Clinton and Sanders have a much better chance of becoming president.

The answer clearly seems to revolve around the short-term profits Trump helps generate. “I go on one of these shows and the ratings double, they triple,” Trump recently told Time. “And that gives you power. It’s not the polls. It’s the ratings.”

But newsroom executives seem reluctant to acknowledge that fact.

“I think that taking candidate rallies unedited is actually a valuable service,” CNN Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist recently explained, when pressed about the Trump tsunami. “I think that taking those rallies live, unedited, without commentary is useful,” he added

In theory, that’s great. If CNN wants to turn itself into C-SPAN during the campaign season and just televise rally after candidate rally in their entirety, more power to them. But have you seen lots and lots of Clinton and Sanders rallies aired uninterrupted? (Veteran journalist Jeff Greenfield compared the regular airing of “unvetted” Trump events to state-run television under Fidel Castro.)

Meanwhile, the numbers are still hard to make sense of. As mentioned, Trump received 143 minutes of network evening news time during the month of March. By comparison, Obama’s reelection campaign garnered 157 minutes of evening network news time during all of 2012.

Seen another way, Trump in just three months this year has received more than 250 minutes of network evening news time, which far surpasses all of Obama’s 2012 re-election coverage.

And there’s still seven months left until November.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, April  6, 2016

April 12, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Media Coverage, Donald Trump, Media | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“No Special-Interest Contributions?”: Will Trump Have To Go On A Fund-Raising Binge If He Wins The GOP Nomination?

One of the big story lines of the presidential cycle is that candidates other than front-runner Donald J. Trump have spent a lot more money on themselves and against him than he’s had to expend, enabling him to pose as the guy too rich (and too popular with small donors) to be vulnerable to “bribery.” This was exemplified by the failed effort by Marco Rubio and an assortment of conservative groups to take down Trump in Florida. Anti-Trump “independent” ads alone in the Sunshine State cost an estimated $35.5 million. Total spending by Trump and his supporters for the entire campaign nationwide is at $25.8 million.

Trump’s difference-maker financially, of course, has been his massive advantage in “earned media” (or what used to be called “free media,” because it’s provided by media coverage free of charge). MediaQuant, a firm that measures and values unpaid media coverage, estimates that Trump has harvested nearly $1.9 billion in earned media this cycle. That’s about twice as much as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush combined have received, and within shouting distance of being twice as much as the two Democratic candidates combined as well.

But general-election campaigns are a lot more expensive than primaries. So it’s not surprising that Trump has hedged on repeating his “no special-interest contributions” pledge beyond the Republican Convention in July, and CNN is reporting that he’s already planning a big fund-raising blitz for the general election.

At The American Prospect, Eliza Newlin Carney puts all this together and suggests that total campaign costs are about to become too high for Trump to perpetually surf earned media to victory:

So far, Trump has enjoyed an extraordinary political ride, fending off millions worth of hostile attacks, prevailing against opponents who out-organized and outspent him, and sparing himself the punishing grind of high-dollar fundraisers. He’s also gotten considerable political mileage out of his claim to be above the big money fray. It remains to be seen whether Trump can continue playing by his own rules, or whether he will be forced to get his hands dirty in the messy business of campaign financing—and answer for it to voters.

But there are two factors that undercut this possibility. For one thing, Trump could liquidate some of his assets (estimated independently as having a value of about $4.5 billion) and self-finance to a considerable extent. And for another, this long nominating contest season in both parties is shortening the general-election campaign and the time and cost of any “air war.” Additionally, earned media is much easier to come by in presidential general elections than any other mode of politics, sometimes dwarfing paid media even when there’s not a wildly entertaining and galvanizing figure like Donald Trump in the fray. So it might make sense for Trump to wait and see if he even needs to spend a lot of money. At the current trajectory Americans won’t grow totally bored with the wiggy dude until some time well into 2017.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 17, 2016

March 19, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Donald Trump, Special Interest Groups | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Making America More Bigoted And More Racist Again”: Trump Takes His Racially Charged Message To The Airwaves

Ordinarily, a presidential candidate releasing a new television commercial wouldn’t be especially newsworthy, but the new ad from Donald Trump is a little different than most – both in circumstances and in content.

Consider the message itself, first reported by the Washington Post. Viewers hear a voice-over say:

“The politicians can pretend it’s something else, but Donald Trump calls it ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ That’s why he’s calling for a temporary shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until we can figure out what’s going on. He’ll quickly cut the head off ISIS and take their oil. And he’ll stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our Southern border that Mexico will pay for.”

The ad then cuts to Trump himself speaking at a campaign rally, vowing, “We will make America great again.”

The imagery, of course, matters. When the commercial references terrorism, the ad shows the San Bernardino shooters. When it touts Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, viewers are shown masked terrorists. And when the spot references immigration, there’s grainy video of people running at a border.

So, why is this important? For one thing, it’s Trump’s first television ad of the entire election cycle. While some of his rivals have already invested millions – Jeb Bush and his allies spent about $38 million on campaign commercials in 2015 – Trump has spent just $217,000 on some radio advertising. Now, however, his campaign is spending $1.1  million to air this spot in Iowa and nearly $1 million for airtime in New Hampshire.

The New York developer is the first modern presidential candidate to excel by relying exclusively on free media and campaign rallies, and it’s hard to say with confidence whether his first foray into television advertising will help, hurt, or make no difference.

But let’s not brush past the nature of Trump’s pitch too quickly.

In recent months, as Trump has maintained a sizable lead over the rest of the GOP field, there’s been ample discussion about what’s driving his success. One of the more common explanations is the economic anxieties felt by working-class white voters, with whom Trump’s version of conservative populism resonates.

Putting aside whether or not the thesis has merit, what this ad helps demonstrate is something far simpler and more straightforward: the Republican frontrunner recognizes the power of his racially charged appeals; he understands the degree to which his support is dependent on racially divisive rhetoric; and so his campaign ads are sticking with what works.

How do we “make America great again”? It’s not by weakening the influence of special interests, or creating more jobs, or even applying lessons from Trump’s successes in the private sector.

No, according to the GOP frontrunner, to make America great we simply need to elect a president who’ll focus on Muslims and Mexicans.

The Post’s report added, “The first ad, titled ‘Great Again,’ makes clear that Trump’s closing pitch to voters will be as visceral and arresting as the one he delivers at raucous rallies. It is a full embrace of the most incendiary of his proposals, as opposed to the more biographical spots that some other candidates favor.”

Anyone who’s heard Trump’s stump speech knows this isn’t exactly new rhetorical territory for the candidate, but it matters that when putting together the campaign’s first television ad, Team Trump came to an important conclusion: bigotry works.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 4, 2016

January 5, 2016 Posted by | Bigotry, Donald Trump, Racism | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Citizens United And New Media Are On A Collision Course”: New Technology Has Potential To Deal A Blow To Big Money In Politics

New media is challenging the basic business model of advertisements as a way to pay for television programming. First came remote controls and options like Tivo, which allowed viewers to skip ads. Now, in the age of digital streaming, the number of households that are “cord cutters” (no cable or satellite television service) has increased 60% in the last 5 years.

This evolution comes just as the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United allowed for unlimited contributions to campaign super pacs – whose main role has been to pay for expensive television advertising. The conflation of those two developments might help explain why Jeb Bush’s super pac has spent over $15 million on television ads (far more than any other campaign), and yet their candidate has dropped to fifth place in the polls, leading long-time Bush family friend John Sununu to say, “I have no feeling for the electorate anymore. It’s not responding the way it used to.”

We essentially saw the same thing in the 2012 election when Karl Rove’s super pacs had a 1% return on their investment in television ads, while a video recorded by a waiter at a Romney event was likely a game-changer. At some point super pacs are going to have to ask themselves what they should be spending all those millions of dollars on if television advertising doesn’t move the needle on poll numbers, while free media becomes a determining factor.

It’s also interesting to note that a candidate like Donald Trump has spent very little money so far and recently swore off having any super pacs. The reason he’s been able to do that is because he gets a tremendous amount of free media for saying outrageous things. That poses it’s own kind of danger as long as the press prioritizes the sensational over the substantive. But in the end, it is not significantly different from all the free media the Obama campaign got with the video of Romney’s “47%” remarks in 2012.

The one Republican candidate whose super pacs are experimenting more aggressively with the use of new media is Ted Cruz. Kellyanne Conway, who runs one of the Cruz super pacs, recently said that their goal was to be “more surgical, spending on digital, cable, direct mail, radio, in addition to TV.”

Brian Fisher, who runs an organization called “Online for Life” (which has developed apps and social media to connect with women seeking to end a pregnancy), has formed a company called Red Metrics LLC that will serve as the data and digital operation for Cruz’s four Keep the Promise super pacs. One of the visible results of that collaboration is the Facebook page: Reigniting the Promise, which already has over 380,000 followers.

To date, the Cruz super pacs have spent almost nothing on television ads, and yet their candidate is inching up in the polls and his campaign has raised more “hard money” than anyone in the Republican field except Ben Carson. Whether or not Cruz has a chance at actually being the nominee remains to be seen. But when you compare the results of super pac spending on new media vs paid television advertising, it is obvious that there is a new game in town.

It is always important to remember that the role of money in politics is to influence voters. As long as super pacs continue to spend their money on something that doesn’t have much impact on them (estimates are that they’ll spend $4.4 billion on TV ads this election cycle), the concern about the wealthy being able to control our elections is muted.

On the other hand, just as new media is having an impact on the music, entertainment and publishing industries, it is also affecting political campaigns. As we’ve seen with those other industries, new media is inherently more democratic and less expensive. That puts it on a bit of a collision course with the big money that is flooding into super pacs.

New media is clearly here to stay. While mega-donors and their super pacs will catch on to that fact some day and make adjustments, it is time to begin asking ourselves whether or not this new technology has the potential to deal a definitive blow to the role of big money in politics.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 1, 2015

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Advertising, Citizens United, New Media | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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