The words they used

September 9, 2008

The New York Times published a neat graph of the words used in the speeches at the two political conventions. Have a look. So, was senator Biden dreaming? Are Democrats talking more about issues? I think he’s on to something. Who was talking more about Iraq? Who was talking more about the economy, jobs, health care and energy? Why are Republicans talking so much about God, taxes and business interests?


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  1. I did notice some things in the NYT piece as well. First, a bit of shameless flattery. Just wanted to say that I have really enjoyed your site, Scott. While I sometimes disagree, I do like some of your opinions and I think your posts are often insightful (wrong, but insightful…). I’ve seen some good stuff I might have otherwise missed.

    “McCain” was used three times as much as “Obama”. “Bush” was mentioned twice as often. I thought the Republicans were the ones running the attack machine?

    The top three Obama items are: McCain (21), Change (18), Taxes (11).

    The top three McCain items are: Change and Jobs (tied at 9), God and Taxes (tied at 8), Business, Economy and War (tied at 7).

    By the numbers, it looks like McCain made a speech much broader in scope and issues than Obama, so maybe Joe WAS dreaming. Joe Biden, by the way, mentioned Change and McCain a total of 33 times while only mentioning Iraq, economy, jobs, health care and energy a sum of 14 times. McCain hit those 5 topics 25 times and Obama 33 times. Also, Obama said taxes and business 17 times to McCain’s 15. If we add the “four letter word” God to the mix, it still comes out Obama 19 and McCain 23.

    Quite close really (other than poor Joe’s dreaming), so when we scrutinize the numbers more, your position seems a bit weak.

    Again, my compliments on the site. Keep up the good work.

  2. “McCain” was used three times as much as “Obama”.

    I suspect that’s because Obama is an exciting, inspirational person and the GOP doesn’t want to increase his fame by putting his name out there. Just a guess, though.

    “Bush” was mentioned twice as often.

    I think it’s entirely fair for speakers at the Democratic national convention to refer to the party that they are running against, especially since that party has controlled Washington pretty solidly for most of the last eight years of decline. George W. Bush has been the de facto leader of the Republican party. His record is salient to the question of whether the American people should trust his party for another four years, don’t you? McCain seems to be running against his own party’s record and leadership. (“Change” from what? Themselves?)

    You have an interesting perspective. But comparing their “top three” is a self-serving way to analyze it. Sure “war” was one of the GOPs top three, but how does it compare with the Democrats “war” incidence? Not so good. Sure, “jobs” was in their top three, but when you compared how little they talked about it compared to the Dems, it seems to me that they aren’t as focused on it as we are.

    Thanks for the kind words. As you know I have recently had a lot of petty and childish remarks about my blog, so it’s good to know someone can rise above it.

  3. My thoughts were more to the candidates speeches rather than the parties. McCain’s speech was rather long and wonky, but was, if you saw it, full of his policy plans. Obama is by far the more fiery speaker, but he has nothing on McCain when it comes to policy in his speech.

    My analysis was no more self-serving than yours, really….it just had a different spin. I wanted to point out that your assertation ( or Joe Biden’s) about God, Taxes and Business was really not the case when you look at what the actual candidates for President said.

    Childish remarks about your site should be filed in the appropriate rubbish bin. Post what you think….post what excites you….ignore petty remarks when needed.

  4. McCain’s speech was rather long and wonky, but was, if you saw it, full of his policy plans. Obama is by far the more fiery speaker, but he has nothing on McCain when it comes to policy in his speech.

    I don’t think that’s an accurate statement. I saw Obama’s speech (after the fact) and I watched McCain’s live. I recall no more policy specifics in McCain’s speech than in Obama’s.

  5. Actually, I was struck by how LITTLE policy was in McCain’s speech (I caught about 80%, though, so maybe he crammed a lot in when I was in the bathroom).

  6. Really, you’re talking about words plucked out of their context. Words taken out of context have a tendency to be self serving, don’t you think?

  7. By itself, it’s not a definitive piece of evidence that one candidate is “focusing more” on a particular issue. It certainly is evidence in that direction, however.

    One needs to contextualize it, true. The Republicans talked less about the middle class. But does it mean their policy proposals are less sympathetic to the plight of that demographic? Not necessarily. But when you look, Obama does give them a bigger tax cut while McCain’s policy is more friendly to the wealthy.

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