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Romney and Obama lost TV coverage to Sandy. Did anyone notice?

November 09, 2012|By James Rainey
  • In the week before the presidential election, network TV news shows focused more on super storm Sandy than on the race between President Obama and Mitt Romney.
In the week before the presidential election, network TV news shows focused… (Weather Underground / Associated…)

Republicans have blamed super storm Sandy for diverting attention from the presidential race just as Mitt Romney prepared to launch a final surge that might have carried him to victory.

It’s impossible to measure the impact of the giant storm on Romney’s showdown with President Obama, but a media tracking organization found that, indeed, presidential politics virtually disappeared from evening network news programs in the week before Tuesday’s election.

NBC, ABC and CBS broadcast a total of just 42 minutes of news on the race in the week leading up to Tuesday's election, said media tracker Andrew Tyndall. That’s less than one-third of the 128 minutes the three networks devoted to the last week of the 2008 campaign between Obama and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said Tyndall, who publishes the Tyndall Report, which details content on the evening news shows.

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Only once in six pre-2012 presidential elections did the final week of network coverage drop below 100 minutes. Generally, the big three networks provided three to four times as much coverage as they did in the first week of November this year.

Here are the total minutes that NBC, ABC and CBS spent on the political campaigns in the last week of the last seven presidential campaigns:

2012: 42 minutes

2008: 128 minutes

2004: 147 minutes

2000: 158 minutes

1996: 82 minutes

1992: 163 minutes

1988: 141 minutes

The coverage of Sandy helped Obama more than it did Romney. The networks showed New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, heaping praise on Obama for the quick federal response to the disaster. “I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern,” Christie said.

Those words helped cement the notion that the president would work with Republicans to get things done. It also made Christie a traitor to many Republicans, who claimed he had cost Romney the election. Radio and TV commentator Laura Ingraham — who had once urged Christie to enter the presidential race — said recently that she thought he might jump to the Democratic Party.

STATE BY STATE: Sandy's impact

The storm, meanwhile, prompted the media to resuscitate Romney’s past comments on disaster relief, in which he had agreed with some who said the Federal Emergency Management Agency could be cut.

When asked in a CNN debate in June 2012 whether federal disaster response could be cut back to help save tax dollars, Romney said: “Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

His aides in the presidential race said Romney had no intention of disbanding FEMA, but his thoughts did not warm many hearts on the storm-ravaged Eastern Seaboard.

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