Obama’s comment that “The private sector is doing fine” was amplified across the media space, causing outcry from Romney and the right. The amplification and subsequent attempt to clarify these remarks by Obama and his staff caused them to veer off course from their usual Romney-bashing strategy and spend more time defending Obama’s record on the Economy.

Neutral Statements by Obama Team Jumped in June

Chart shows percentage of statements in election coverage from Barack Obama and his campaign staff that were Neutral (grey), Negative to Romney (orange), and Positive to Obama (green).  Time frame is May 23 – June 19.

Chart shows percentage of statements in election coverage from Barack Obama and his campaign staff that were Neutral (grey), Negative to Romney (orange), and Positive to Obama (green). Time frame is May 23 – June 19.

In late May, statements from the Obama campaign that were negative toward Romney consisted of one-third of their total statements, outnumbering self-endorsing statements (Positive to Obama) by 38%. Then, from June 7 – 10, statements from the Obama campaign that were negative to Romney made a dramatic drop to just 12% of their total statements and equaled those that were positive to Obama. Since then, the Obama campaign has had only slightly more statements that have been negative to Romney than positive to Obama.

This pattern has been driven by an increase in neutral statements about the economy by the Obama team. In late May, neutral statements in election coverage from the Obama campaign were 35-45% of their total statements. Starting June 7th, this number increased to over 70% of their total statements and has hovered above 60% since then. This dramatic change in neutral statements from the Obama campaign was triggered by Obama’s comment on the economy.

Obama and Staff Spoke Mostly About Economy After June 7

Chart shows topic and sentiment distribution of statements from Obama and his campaign staff in election coverage following Obama’s comment that “That private sector is doing fine”.  Time Frame is June 7 – June 19.

Chart shows topic and sentiment distribution of statements from Obama and his campaign staff in election coverage following Obama’s comment that “That private sector is doing fine”. Time Frame is June 7 – June 19.

On June 8th, Obama said that “The private sector is doing fine”. This comment caused a media ‘tempest in a teapot’ driven by an outcry from Romney and Republicans that Obama was out of touch with an economically hurting public. The comment came right on the heels of the dismal May jobs report that was released just days earlier. Obama had to clarify his statement with follow-up comments such as “It is absolutely clear the economy is not doing fine”. Obama tried to explain that he was making a comparison with the public sector, which he said has not been doing as well as the private sector. It was these explicative and clarifying statements on the economy that bloated the Obama campaign’s neutral messaging. Over 50% of statements from the Obama campaign from June 7 – 19 were about the economy, and 37% of these were neutral.