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Bill Clinton's vanishing act

February 12, 2008 | 11:31 am

Who says Bill Clinton lacks discipline? Then again, maybe he's just become old news (for now).

As the vote was counted in last month's South Carolina primary, it was evident that the former president's outsized personality and controversial statements had hindered the effort by his wife to become the next president. The challenge facing Hillary Clinton and her campaign aides was whether it would be able to rein him in.

Based on the latest study of political coverage by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, they pulled it off.

The group's report found that ...

... Bill Clinton "registered as a significant or dominant newsmaker in only 2% of stories" during the week of Feb. 4-10, compared with 18% during the latter part of January.

He's still hard at it on the campaign trail -- Monday night, he drew a packed crowd at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. And, according to blogger Todd Beeton, a Democratic activist, he effectively pressed the case for his wife.

The study also found that John McCain figured prominently in 42% of all campaign stories during February's first full week -- not surprising, given that he established his front-runner status in the GOP presidential contest during those days.

But the leading Democrats got their fair share of the spotlight -- the comparable coverage figures for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were 41% and 40%, respectively.

-- Don Frederick