Report: Media Saw Romney as Nominee Post-Michigan

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Fouhy Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The media decided that Mitt Romney would be the inevitable Republican presidential nominee weeks before voters did, according to a report that analyzes race coverage.

The study being released Monday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism found that while Romney didn't have a clear path until chief rival Rick Santorum suspended his campaign April 10, the media concluded the race was over Feb. 28, when Romney narrowly won the Michigan primary.

The report analyzed the content and tone of coverage of the contest from Jan. 2 to April 15. It used a computer-assisted analysis of more than 11,000 news outlets and a closer assessment of 52 key print, television, audio and online news outlets.

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and a co-author of the report, said Romney was the focus of plenty of skeptical stories throughout the primaries, but the former Massachusetts governor's victory in Michigan led to a decisive shift in media coverage. Romney grew up in Michigan, but Santorum made a strong play for conservative support.

"The press began to see Romney's victory as essentially secured by the end of February even though it was clear many voters were still uneasy," Rosenstiel said. "What we saw going on in the coverage then was a suddenly intense discussion of `delegate math' and the conclusion that no other candidate could win. …