Various pundits have pointed to various controversies and vulnerabilities that could end up causing trouble for Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. We’ll see which of those things end up being a factor as this plays out over the next year and a half. But for now it’s clear that none of them are negatively impacting Biden at all, as he’s exploding upward in the polls – and that’s actually a problem for him.
The last four major national polls show that Joe Biden is pulling ahead in the 2020 Democratic primary race by a huge margin. Biden isn’t just in first place in every poll; he’s about three times as popular as any other candidate. It’s a long race, there are a lot of strong candidates, and a lot of things will change. But at the moment, Biden is the overwhelming frontrunner – and that’s not a place you necessarily want to be this early on. All you have to do is look back at the 2016 race to understand why.
Here are the indisputable facts about the 2016 Democratic primary race, whether anyone wants them to be true or not: Hillary Clinton was ahead by fifteen to twenty points nationally the entire time. It was a blowout. If you were under some other impression, you can go look up the numbers yourself. At no point was it a remotely close or competitive primary race. But this kind of blowout made for terrible ratings, so the mainstream media – particularly cable news – did what they always do in these situations.
The media largely only quoted isolated state polls where Clinton was doing the worst, while ignoring the national polls that showed the race was a blowout in her favor. The media never acknowledged that Clinton was the dominant frontrunner. Half the time, the media pretended that Bernie Sanders was ahead in the race, when he was getting blown out the entire time. They never once acknowledged that Clinton had pulled ahead by millions of votes, and instead spent the entire time pretending that Clinton was only ahead due to superdelegates, even though superdelegates played literally zero mathematical role in determining the nominee.
It got worse. The media massively overstated Clinton’s scandals, making her look like she was finished, and at times creating the false appearance that she might even be indicted for imaginary crimes. The media got the ratings it needed by pretending the 2016 primary was a close race, and by falsely scandalizing the dominant frontrunner. In the process, the media created such a stench of fiction around the primary race, no wonder Sanders supporters were surprised and confused when he ended up losing – even though he lost by a popular vote blowout margin that anyone could have predicted if they’d been looking at the actual numbers, instead of the numbers on their television.
With so many Democratic candidates in the 2020 race, there was supposed to be so much legitimate competition, and thus so many ratings-friendly narratives to grab onto, the media wouldn’t need to resort to fictional reporting in order to manufacture ratings this time around. That level of close competition may yet still happen. It’s very early, and a number of these candidates have an opportunity to significantly climb in the polls as they pound the pavement and gradually raise their national profiles.
But if Joe Biden keeps climbing in the polls in the coming weeks, and he becomes too dominant of a frontrunner, you can bet your last dollar that the media will to do Biden during the 2020 Democratic primary what it did to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Democratic primary. The widespread fictional coverage of the 2016 primary ended up having a negative impact on everyone involved, and it’s the unspoken main reason that Donald Trump is in the White House. If the media pulls the same crap against Biden that it pulled against Hillary, the entire Democratic Party will be in trouble in 2020.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report