Media Sidelining Sanders?

By | 3/24/2016 Leave a Comment
democratic primary race

After the March 15th primary results were in, the media was filled with banner headlines of Clinton’s crushing victories in all five states that were in play, making it seem as though Bernie Sanders’ “Little Engine That Could” campaign had finally run out of steam. You’d have been forgiven for thinking that Clinton had demolished her opposition, been crowned with the nomination, and sent poor Bernie limping back to Vermont clutching his runner-up plaque engraved with the words “It's not the winning but the taking part that counts.”    

But a closer look at what happened that day tells a somewhat different story. Yes, Clinton did win all five states (though she finally clinched Missouri by a mere two tenths of a percentage point), including a very big win in Florida; and yes, the Sanders campaign had hoped to pull off surprise wins in the Rust Belt states of Ohio and Illinois – and didn’t. But in two of those states (Missouri and Illinois) the candidates were tied for all intents and purposes, and Sanders had a far better result in North Carolina than anyone had predicted. In the end, the delegates won that day were 391 for Clinton and 284 for Sanders – not exactly a shutout by anyone’s measure. In fact, if you take Florida out of the equation (where Sanders was never going to perform well), the results are far less cause for commotion, with Clinton at 250 and Sanders at 214.

More egregious, though, was the media’s reaction to the March 22nd primary results. “Trump, Clinton win big in Arizona” from Reuters, “Primary results: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton score key Western victories” from CNN, “Clinton, Trump add to delegate leads with Arizona victories” from MSN. 

Yes, Clinton did win Arizona, by a margin of about 57% to 40%. As a result she picked up and additional 44 delegates, compared to 30 for Sanders. But there were two other races at play on the Democratic side and Sanders won them both. Not only won them but ran away with them, amassing roughly 80% of the votes in both Idaho and Utah, to Clinton’s roughly 20%. When lopsided results like that were occurring in the Southern states for Clinton it was considered – rightly so – very newsworthy. But for Bernie Sanders, his equally impressive performance in those two states this week barely moved the needle of media interest. 

Sanders ended up with triple Clinton’s delegate allotment from Idaho and quadruple what she received in Utah. He also won the most delegates overall that day – 73 to Clinton’s 55. But to hear the media tell it, it was…well, just another big day for Hillary.

After much hoopla over Trump and Clinton’s Arizona wins, CNN, further down in their article, quaintly described Sanders’ two victories as “morale boosting.” I’ve a feeling the only morale boost the Sanders Campaign is looking for right now is more balanced media coverage.

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