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Democratic Primary Voters Decisively Rejected the Media’s Favorite Candidates

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As Super Tuesday finally transfigures the Democratic presidential nomination process into a binary choice between two old, occasionally problematic white men whose enduring popularity is consistently underrated by a baffled mainstream press, it’s worth reflecting on just how poorly the media’s preferred candidates performed in the 2020 race.

In the end, The New York Times‘ dual Democratic presidential endorsements—bestowed upon both Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) and Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.)—were like the points on Whose Line Is It Anyway?: They just didn’t matter.

Nor did the media’s fawning over South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, early flirtation with Beto O’Rourke, and absolute worship of Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) resonate with the millions of Americans living outside the Acela corridor.

Instead, Democratic voters indicated over and over again that they were most interested in the popular former vice president and the iconoclastic but well-respected runner-up from the 2016 Democratic race. Before the actual primaries, Biden consistently led in polls and Sanders performed well—and then the eventual voting followed this pattern, with early wins for Sanders and a comeback surge from Biden. The idea that any other candidate had a particularly likely shot at the nomination was always pundit-driven misdirection from a class of commentators demanding more interesting, intersectional characters, because the commentators themselves are more interested in identity-based diversity than the rest of the country.

Indeed, the media stumped for Warren so hard that Vox‘s Matt Yglesias recently had to write a post explaining to people why she was losing “even if all your friends love her.” By your friends, he meant friends of people like you, a reader of Vox. Yglesias famously described Vox‘s audience as “a graduate of or student at a selective college (which also describes the staff and our social peers)” and lamented that “if you assigned me the job of serving a less-educated audience [I’d] probably need to think about how to change things up.” He’s right; outside the Vox bubble, there was little interest in the kind of cultural progressivism represented by Warren.

At present, Biden and Sanders are locked in a battle for delegates. Both men have a good shot at the nomination. But this was true a year ago as well. They were both better-known and better-liked than many in the media seemed to grasp, and an endless series of magazine covers, fluff pieces, and editorial board endorsements aimed at other candidates couldn’t make any difference whatsoever.

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