I got a chance to talk to Chicago mayoral candidate Patricia Watkins shortly after former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun essentially called Watkins a crack head in a televised debate. "What were you thinking when she did that?" I asked.
Watkins was short-answered and tight-lipped. But what's clear, she said
on "The Barber Shop Show," our weekly public affairs radio show on
vocalo.org and WBEW, 89.5 FM, was that she didn't want to give Rahm
Emanuel or any other mayoral candidate any more air time. She just
wants to talk about the issues.
Watkins, somewhat of a political newcomer, has been polling low in the
race, which is part of the reason she--along with William "Dock"
Walls--were snubbed at some of the city's high-profile debates. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, all six candidates sparred for the first time last night during the Chicago Defender's debate. Another forum will be held tonight by the Chicago Urban League, Harriet's Daughters and FOX Chicago.
Some blame the lack of media for Watkins' low polling, saying she would have done better had the media paid attention. I don't know about that, but I got curious how much, or how little, coverage Watkins and Walls had been getting.
I took a quick look at just a couple of the publications, The Chicago
Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, adding up how many times each
candidate's name had been mentioned since Nov. 13, the day Emanuel
announced he was running.
It turns out that the candidates' poll rankings mirrored almost exactly the amount of media coverage they got. The only difference was that in the Jan. 20 Tribune/WGN-TV poll, Braun
was in second place, slightly ahead of Chico. While Chico has received
the second-highest mentions in the city's two major daily newspapers,
slightly more than Braun. In the even more recent Feb. 8 ABC7 poll the results were dead on, though the exact results for Watkins and Walls were not included.
Surprisingly, while Braun's outburst may have negatively hurt Watkins'
public image, it boosted her media presence. According to our analysis,
Watkins was mentioned 36 times in the Tribune and Sun-Times, the lowest
among all the candidates. Emanuel received 447 mentions, Chico was next
with 227 mentions. The median for all candidates was 178 mentions.
Watkins had just 36 mentions in the 79 days before the crack comment
was made on Jan. 31, 2011, a rate of just 0.46 mentions per day. From
Jan. 31, 2011, to Feb. 8, 2011, Watkins received 17 mentions, a rate of
1.89 per day--an increase of more than 300 percent.
No wonder Watkins was reticent about giving anyone else any press. It could ultimately help her opponents win in the polls.