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Edwards And Obama: The Personal Becomes Political

There's a piece of fascinating info buried in the data files for the Pew report Dayo linked below: Which presidential candidate do you think attracts the most stories with a "personal" focus, rather than a "political" or "policy" one? It's John Edwards, at 42% personal coverage. By contrast, only 18% of the stories written on Obama are "personal," despite the fact that he's made his unusual biography a foundation of his campaign. Some of this imbalance has to come from Elizabeth Edwards's cancer, but not all -- she announced that at the end of March, and the study looked at coverage from January through May.

Maybe the "son of a mill worker" thing is an easier, more resonant narrative than the "son of a Kenyan and a Kansan-turned-Hawaiian-turned-Indonesian" thing. But I think this number is more of a quantification of just how overwhelming the Obama-battles-Hillary trope is in primary coverage: After all, despite attracting so many personal stories, Edwards gets by far the highest percentage of articles on his policies, too. 68% of articles on Clinton are "political" (i.e., strategic). 57% on Obama are. But only 35% on Edwards are. The Obama-Hillary Smackdown sucks the air out of coverage on the other aspects of their campaigns.

The candidate with the very highest percentage of policy stories, an astounding 29% of coverage? Rudy. At first this seemed stupid to me, but then I remembered what a power9/11fully com9/11plex, com9/11pelling poli9/11cy port9/11folio he has. Sorry, our new website software seems to have some kind of tic.

--Eve Fairbanks