3. PLAYING FAVORITES
The 2019 portion of the 2020 presidential campaign cycle was marked by a crisis of pundit confidence. Old practices like the “invisible primary” were rendered meaningless, thanks to an electorate that no longer flocks to media-endorsed frontrunners. Nonetheless, outlets spilled enormous quantities of ink and devoted oceans of airtime hyping establishment candidates whose “electability” arguments were mostly fictional. The magazine covers for Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris were one thing, but there was real weirdness in the mania over “momentum” for Amy Klobuchar, whose recent “Klobucharge” a whole point or so up in the polls recalled some of the sillier stories of the 2016 cycle (i.e. “Marcomentum”).
Bernie Sanders in particular led a Trotsky-like existence in coverage in 2019, i.e. he was often all but physically cut out of headlines. When he held a huge rally in Los Angeles, the L.A. Times headline was about Biden winning the “electability primary.” CNN ran five stories about a New Hampshire poll showing Sanders in the lead, and none mentioned Sanders in the headline. These things can be in the eye of the beholder, and a lot of innocent oversights look intentional when you’ve invested hopes in a campaign, but the clearest evidence of how the media shaded Sanders coverage (to say nothing of often-detestable treatment of some other, lesser-polling candidates) is that he hasn’t yet suffered the backlash that usually comes with being hyped as a possible nominee. Brace yourself for an avalanche of insane propaganda if the wrong candidate does well in New Hampshire or Iowa.