In TV Mentions, Bloomberg Surges to the Fore

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Three months ago, Michael Bloomberg was the ninth most mentioned Democratic presidential candidate despite having just entered the race, Joe Biden had more media coverage than the rest of the field combined, and Pete Buttigieg was a surprise media upstart placing ahead of Bernie Sanders. With Bloomberg qualifying for this week’s Democratic debate and Sanders now leading in the national polls, how has the media landscape changed in recent months? 

Using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive, as processed by the GDELT Project, the graph below shows the number of mentions of each of the major candidates on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News since Jan. 1 of this year. (Click on the graph to enlarge it.)

Biden’s lead is gone, with Sanders  taking top billing on the three news channels, while Bloomberg has catapulted to third place, just ahead of Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, with Amy Klobuchar in sixth place. 

The numbers have changed even more dramatically over the past week, with the chart below showing their respective mentions from Feb. 8 through the end of Feb. 17.

Sanders now has a sizable lead, Bloomberg and Biden are tied for second, Buttigieg is fourth, Klobuchar fifth and Warren trails in sixth place. 

Looking at the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news broadcasts, Bloomberg has almost twice as many mentions as second-place Sanders, followed by Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Warren, Tom Steyer and the rest of the field.

Bloomberg also leads in  total seconds of airtime his name appeared in the on-screen “chyrons” (the textual title bar at the bottom of the screen) on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. Once again, Sanders takes second place followed by Biden and Buttigieg, but this time Warren has eked out a slight lead over Klobuchar.

In fact, online coverage is the only place where Bloomberg ranks at the bottom of the field, just above Steyer. Sanders, though, still leads over Biden, and Buttigieg tops Warren.

Putting this all together, the media appear to have coalesced around Sanders and Bloomberg as the two current front-runners, followed by Buttigieg, while Warren has been relegated to alternating with Klobuchar for last place. While much is still to be decided in the 2020 race, the charts above show how much has changed in the last three months and how fluid the contest remains.

RealClear Media Fellow Kalev Leetaru is a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber & Homeland Security. His past roles include fellow in residence at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government.



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