WASHINGTON – The presidential campaign has been largely overshadowed this year by news events like the war in Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prison (search) scandal and the Sept. 11 commission on the terrorist attacks, allowing President Bush to dominate news coverage, according to a study of the political media.
Intense news coverage of foreign policy issues and the war on terrorism is also overwhelming Democrat John Kerry's (search) attempts to introduce himself to the public, according to the study done by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (search).
"Neither of these guys are in control of their message, events have overwhelmed their campaigning," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the media research group.
While Bush and Kerry remain locked in a close presidential race, the intense news flow causes problems for both of the candidates.
"For Bush, regardless of what he does, Iraq is the lens through which his campaign and his character are being covered by the press," Rosenstiel said. "Coverage has been roughly 3-to-1 negative on Bush, but it hasn't really eroded people's impression of him."
"For Kerry this is bad news," he said, noting that is why Kerry has not been able to more firmly establish his identity with the public.
While media coverage often portrays Bush as stubborn and arrogant and lacking credibility, there also is an undercurrent of the coverage that suggests he is a strong leader, the study found. Coverage of Kerry has conveyed mostly that he is a flip-flopper who often changes his position on issues, it found.
"If you spend $85-90 million, then a few people may believe one thing or another," Kerry said in an interview with "60 Minutes."
The study conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Missouri School of Journalism and the Pew Research Center examined in detail the newspaper, Internet and TV coverage of the campaign and how the media has dealt with the candidates and their character.