Yes, I’m bit of a news junky. I can’t start or end my day without a dip into the vast news stream that defines our mediaQuant data. So when it’s election time I quickly find myself in the thick of candidate coverage and partisan politics. Wrapping numbers around that news coverage is what we do.

We’ve written a lot about the GOP and it’s dwindling list of candidates, and with state primaries underway we now have a view into the Clinton vs. Sanders race for the Democratic nomination. Both candidates have their own unique and equally strong media rating profiles — they’re just 2-points apart in the media rating race. But there’s one very interesting divergence between the two that only surfaces when you apply a comparative and indexed metric to their individual media draw.

It’s the idea of media momentum. First, here’s my quick description of media momentum: take the long-term (9-month) media coverage growth rate and compare it to the short-term media coverage growth rate (3-months). Then step back chronologically each month over a 4-year period and keep computing those two numbers. At the same time, subtract them to get a long-term vs. short-term media growth value for that particular point in time. Plot that value as you go along over the ensuing 4-years and you can see exactly when and where the short-term media performance for a candidate is falling behind or moving ahead of their long-term media performance. Effectively, you’ve created a view into the momentum for a subject in the media, in this case the two Democratic candidates.

You can check out the full media performance profiles for all the candidates on our analytic dashboards, but here’s a snapshot into the momentum figures for the Clinton / Sanders match-up:

Hillary Clinton’s media rating (comparative score of media prominence) trend over 4 years shows a steady increase over last 12-months preceded by 2-years of essentially zero rating growth. Now take a look at Bernie Sanders’ rating profile over the same period and pay particular attention to the blue-bars in the media momentum chart. Sanders has shown 3 waves of increasing media momentum, whereas Clinton has been on a 3-month decline after a struggle to sustain momentum during the early primary season.

Sometimes it takes me a minute or two to get my head around the momentum metric, but what this says is Sanders has been able to beat his prior media performance with each successive month, and he’s done that better then Clinton over the last 3 media cycles. Now sustaining media momentum is very difficult, especially in the 90s-rating stratosphere, and eventually your long-term growth rate creeps up and overtakes your short -term number. But delaying that cross-over can propel your brand (candidate) past others in the media.

Interested in learning more? Check out the current front-runners and other aspiring 2016 presidential candidates via a no-obligation, 30-day trial of our easy-to-use analytic dashboards.