Just over a month ago, I wrote about how Donald Trump seemed to have lost his media mojo. At the time, television news coverage of his campaign had plateaued for more than six weeks, falling to either equal or below that of his GOP rivals.
But now he seems to have recovered from that lull. In fact, on Dec. 9, he reached a new record for the 2016 presidential race, accounting for 76 percent of all mentions of candidates of either party on national television news networks and 82 percent of mentions of the GOP candidates.
The timeline below shows the total number of mentions per day of each of the major candidates of both parties on Al Jazeera America, Bloomberg News, CNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, FOX Business, FOX News, LinkTV and MSNBC since Trump formally entered the race.
On Dec. 9, Trump received 3,919 total mentions on national television, setting an all-time record for his campaign. This was almost 750 more mentions than he received after his much-anticipated first debate performance on Sept. 16.
The massive surge in mentions of the candidate began Dec. 8 as he spent the morning defending his proposal to forbid Muslim immigration to the United States.
But his surge actually can be traced back further. It wasn’t after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks — no GOP candidate received a substantial increase in coverage after the attacks.
Instead, it was after his Nov. 19 proposal to create a national Muslim tracking database. The timeline below shows the same data as above, but instead of raw mentions, it displays each candidate’s percentage of all mentions of GOP candidates.
After Trump offered this controversial proposal, he went from 24 percent of all mentions of GOP candidates (which placed him under Jeb Bush) to 50 percent in just 48 hours. He then rocketed further — to 82 percent as of this past Wednesday.
This demonstrates, once again, how Trump has used inflammatory proposals and sound bites to dominate media coverage of the 2016 presidential race. The resulting outrage creates wall-to-wall Trump coverage. What remains to be seen is whether this will ultimately help or hurt him in the polls.
Kalev Leetaru is a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security. He thanks the Internet Archive’s television news archive for the use of its data in this analysis and Roger MacDonald, Trevor Von Stein, Kyung Lee, Jake Johnson and the rest of the television team.