Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

MU Expert Analyzes Media Coverage of Candidates and Their Wives in Final Month of Campaign

Oct. 7, 2008

Story Contact:  Emily Smith , (573) 882-3346,
Betty Winfield, (573) 882-5639,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – As media coverage of the 2008 presidential race intensifies, the candidates and their potential first ladies, Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain, are facing increased scrutiny. On Tuesday night, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama will meet at Belmont University in Nashville for their second presidential debate. An MU expert in political communication says media coverage of the debate will influence the public’s view of the candidates and their wives.

“In the last weeks of the campaign, when the economic issues are so pertinent, the incumbent party may attempt to change the topic to character and association issues, either through the candidates themselves or their wives,” said Betty Winfield, University of Missouri Curators’ Professor in Journalism

Winfield said the media’s depictions of the candidates and their wives, especially during and after the debate, will weigh on the public’s opinion of the candidates and who should be named the next U.S. president. 

Winfield is available to discuss the media coverage of the presidential candidates and their wives throughout the final month of the campaign. Winfield has extensively studied news coverage of presidential candidates and the current and former political candidates’ wives, including Obama, McCain, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Lynne Cheney and Nancy Reagan.

“Reporters and critics may challenge Michelle Obama as a way of targeting Barack Obama,” Winfield said. “The situation is similar to the media’s concentration on the mental health of Kitty Dukakis, wife of 1988 presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.”

A recent press release stated that Michelle Obama will appear as a guest on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" on October 8, the night after the presidential debate.

Winfield is an adjunct professor in the university's Department of Political Science and an affiliated professor in the MU Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs. Before coming to Missouri, she was a professor of communication and American studies at Washington State University. She has had post-doctoral fellowships at the Shorenstein Center for Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University (1991) and the Gannett Center for Media and Politics at Columbia University (1988-1989). Winfield has written four books and seven book chapters. She has published more than 70 encyclopedia and journal articles and numerous scholarly papers on mass media history and White House communication. Among them are analyses of the presidential candidates’ wives, and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Anna Eleanor Roosevelt's relationships with the public and the media. She was recently named the first recipient of the National Award for Excellence in Teaching by the American Journalism Historians Association (AJHA).