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Wrong, Rove; news coverage of Romney not 'slightly favorable

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In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Republican strategist Karl Rove says Mitt Romney has had an advantage in news coverage of his campaign from "traditional" outlets:

[...] February has only two primaries (Michigan and Arizona, both on the 28th) and one debate (on the 22nd). Mr. Romney can duplicate his Florida strategy, where his campaign and super PAC outspent the Gingrich forces on ads by a ratio of 5 to 1 during the last three weeks.

But dangers lurk. While traditional news organizations have been balanced or slightly favorable in their coverage of Mr. Romney, the GOP blogosphere has been decidedly negative on him all January, pointing to continuing unease among conservatives.

It's probably true that Romney hasn't received much love from conservative bloggers. Search "Romney" on RedState, a leading conservative blog, and the top three results are: "Mitt Romney as the nominee: Conservatism dies and Barack Obama wins," "The unelectable Romney" and "Not Romney."

But it's decidedly not true that Romney has received "balanced or slightly favorable" coverage from "traditional news organizations." A study published mid-January by the Center for Media and Public Affairs found that Romney got the most negative coverage of any of the Republican candidates on the three network nightly news broadcasts and even Fox News' "Special Report":

On the broadcast networks, evaluative comments of Romney were 78% negative vs. only 22% positive. By contrast, on-air judgments of Ron Paul were 73% positive vs. 27% negative, evaluations of Jon Huntsman were 71% positive vs. 29% negative, Rick Santorum’s evaluations were 56% positive vs. 44% negative, and comments about Newt Gingrich were 52% positive vs. 48% negative. Other candidates received too few evaluations to be statistically meaningful.

FOX Results  Romney fared slightly better on FOX “Special Report”, than on the networks, with 63% negative vs. 37% positive evaluations. By contrast, Ron Paul fared less well than he did on the networks, with evenly balanced coverage -- 50% negative and 50% positive comments. Rick Santorum did best on FOX with 63% positive vs. 37% negative judgments. These were the only candidates who received enough evaluations on FOX for meaningful analysis.

This doesn't take newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times into account. But come on. Let's not kid ourselves.

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