Rise and Shine on Democrats
Table of Contents:
- Executive Summary
- TV's Morning Shows Throw Their Spotlight on the Democrats
- Morning TV Interviews: Much More Time for Democrats...
- ...And Softer Questions, Too
- Conclusion: The Networks Must Find Their Balance
Morning TV Interviews: Much More Time for Democrats...
Even more than day-to-day news coverage, the candidates covet invitations to appear on the networks’ morning shows. As previously noted, the audience for these shows is far larger than the typical cable show, and the questioning is usually not rigorous, especially compared to the politically-oriented Sunday morning talk shows.
Campaign strategists are keenly aware of the value of these appearances, as the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz noted August 13: "The top candidates have been more receptive to the network morning shows, where the questioning is often limited to six minutes rather than a sustained cross-examination about their records."
During the first seven months of this year, these network morning shows have been far more hospitable to Democrats than Republicans. MRC analysts analyzed 67 morning show appearances by either an announced or prospective presidential candidate or one of their representatives. Of those appearances, two-thirds (43) featured Democrats, compared to just 22 for the Republicans. Potential independent candidate Michael Bloomberg was interviewed twice.
When it came to airtime, the Democratic advantage was even more pronounced. Interviews with the various Democratic campaigns totaled 275 minutes of coverage, or roughly four and a half hours. In contrast, the Republicans garnered only 104 minutes of morning show airtime (1 hour, 44 minutes), a greater than two-to-one disparity. (The two interviews with Bloomberg totaled just over nine minutes.)
When one looks solely at interviews with the candidates themselves (excluding their husbands, wives or other spokesmen), the gap shrinks only somewhat. The Democratic candidates still commanded more than three and a half hours of airtime (214 minutes), while the Republicans received just over an hour and a half (97 minutes).
Once again, the networks lavished the most attention on the three Democratic front-runners, with New York Senator Hillary Clinton leading the pack with nearly 90 minutes of airtime. Clinton herself accounted for about two-thirds (62 minutes) of her campaign’s exposure on the morning shows, but the networks also hosted her campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe, her spokesman Howard Wolfson, a group of her top female staffers, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
The networks gave Clinton’s Democratic rival John Edwards's campaign more than an hour of airtime this year (65 minutes), with more than two-thirds (45 minutes) going to the candidate himself (with the rest going to his wife, Elizabeth). Illinois Senator Barack Obama’s campaign gained 53 minutes of face time with morning show viewers — 40 minutes for the candidate, and the rest for his wife, Michelle.
Former Vice President Al Gore was a network guest eight times, getting more than 48 minutes of airtime. (MRC analysts only counted interviews in which a potential Gore presidential campaign was discussed.) Once again, the non-candidate Gore eclipsed the major GOP candidates, as the networks gave less airtime to the campaigns of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (40 minutes) and Arizona Senator John McCain (35 minutes).
The networks hosted second-tier Democratic candidate Joe Biden four times (19 minutes), making him a more visible morning show presence than GOP frontrunner Rudy Giuliani, who was interviewed three times (17 minutes). Interestingly, Giuliani has yet to appear on CBS’s Early Show this year, a show on which Al Gore has appeared four times.
Rounding out the field, potential GOP candidate Newt Gingrich, and declared Republicans Tom Tancredo and Mike Huckabee have each been interviewed once this year. None of the other Republican or Democratic candidates has made an appearance on a network morning show through July 31.