A popular storyline in the mainstream media after the Democratic debate is centered around how Hillary Clinton righted her campaign with a strong debate performance, but the reality is that Clinton has been trending upwards for weeks, and her campaign was never sinking.
The New York Times framed the debate as a comeback for Clinton, “On Tuesday night, after months of political heartburn, things finally started cutting Hillary Rodham Clinton’s way. Her performance at the first Democratic presidential debate was so commanding that even her greatest vulnerability — the lingering controversy over her private email practices as secretary of state — ended up redounding to her benefit.”
Politico praised her debate performance as, “Not only was Hillary Clinton on the receiving end of the night’s biggest gift — her rival, Bernie Sanders, declaring it time for people to shut up about her email scandal — she also delivered some of the evening’s most stinging retorts. The Democratic front-runner showed renewed energy and comfort on a presidential debate stage where she, but none of the others, had been before.”
MSNBC got a little closer to the truth, but not quite, “Clinton reasserted herself as the strongest candidate in the Democratic field, living up to sky-high expectations and clearly demonstrating why she has almost cleared the field of primary opponents. Her campaign struggled through the summer, but many Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief after their party’s most likely standard-bearer showed why so much of the party’s leadership has already rallied behind her.”
See how the mainstream media is spinning the story? The Clinton campaign was struggling. Hillary Clinton lacked energy. Clinton reasserted herself as the strongest candidate.
The problem is that reality doesn’t match up with the story that the media is selling. Hillary Clinton has been trending upwards ever since the negative media coverage of the email story died down. Her popularity jumped in the last couple of weeks after she started attacking Republicans and the Benghazi Select Committee.
As I wrote when the three latest polls of Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada were released, “The CNN/ORC poll found that without Biden in the race Clinton leads Sanders 70%-20% in South Carolina, and 58%-36% in Nevada. African-American voters make up the majority of the primary electorate in South Carolina, and Bernie Sanders is struggling to get their support. Black voters support Clinton 84%-7% without Biden in the race. Clinton leads Sanders among whites 48%-47%. With Clinton also leading in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll of Iowa by 11 points, a clear picture of the race is beginning to emerge.”
Hillary Clinton’s campaign was not in trouble coming into the first Democratic debate. The media is more interested in telling their own horserace story instead of looking at what is really going on with the Democratic primary electorate. Hillary Clinton leads in three of the first four states by double digits. She all other Democratic contenders by huge margins nationally.
Bernie Sanders deserves credit for the success of his campaign, but the idea that Clinton was in dire straights coming into the first Democratic debate is a media myth. Hillary Clinton came into the debate as the Democratic frontrunner, and she left as the Democratic frontrunner. The numbers don’t agree with the story that the political press is trying to sell.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association