In the three days of coverage that followed the first Presidential debate on October 3, both MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews and FOX’s Special Report with Bret Baier were surprisingly negative toward Romney. Bret Baier’s program has 15.4% negative coverage toward Romney. Chris Matthew’s program also had a high percentage of negative coverage about Obama. Over 10% of the statements in Hardball from October 3-6 were negative toward Obama. Also very unusual is Hardball’s positive coverage. They had double the amount of positive coverage toward Romney than Obama and almost the exact same amount of positive to Romney coverage as FOX’s Special Report with Bret Baier. This is evidence of Obama’s poor debate performance and concession by MSNBC that Romney outperformed him.
In coverage following the second Presidential debate on October 16, the sentiment looks much different. Bret Baier and company blasted Obama significantly, with almost one-quarter (24.5%) of their coverage being negative to Obama. However, they also amplified significant positive coverage toward Obama, putting out more positive coverage toward him than Romney. On the other hand, MSNBC’s Hardball coverage looks more like the Hardball we know, with lots of negative to Romney coverage and double the amount of positive coverage for Obama than Romney.