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The Media Have Fallen Out of Love With Bernie, but Have Voters?

Jessica Tarlov

The Hill

Dec 10, 2019

I still remember how angry the 2015 and 2016 coverage of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ long-shot primary campaign made me. As an analyst following the election, and as a Hillary Clinton supporter, I was astonished at the palpable adoration in reporting about Sanders (I-Vt.).

According to TV, print and social media, all the momentum was on his side. Bernie’s revolution was coming! He was authentic and credible, while Hillary was mercurial and dishonest. Never mind that black voters had no interest in supporting him; the pundits were in love. And when he lost by millions of votes, they continued to defend his message and attack the Democratic National Committee for “rigging” the primary against him.

Considering this, it’s all the more astonishing that Sanders isn’t getting any 2020 Beltway support as he sits in second place behind former vice president Joe Biden and has fundraised himself into the top tier from exclusively grassroots donations.

Sanders is in a really good position.

The latest Real Clear Politics average had Biden up over 12 points, with 28 percent support, followed by Sanders at 15.7 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at 14 percent. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s surge continues, putting him in fourth place nationally and first in Iowa and New Hampshire. But who is second in both of the first early states? Bernie Sanders.

A new University of California-Berkeley poll puts Sanders in first place in California with 24 percent support, followed by Warren with 22 percent and Biden down at 14 percent. This is a big change from September, when Warren was atop the field with 29 percent. Sanders also is doing particularly well with two important demographics: young voters and Latino voters. He is the first choice of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 in California and was found to be the top choice of college students in a poll taken by College Reaction/Axios. He was the top choice of Latino Democrats in California, with 32 percent support, followed by Biden with 19 percent.

Sanders doesn’t just have the support of Latinos; he’s earning their dollars. An independent analysis by Juan Proano and Plus Three found that Sanders is bringing the most donations from Latinos among the Democratic field. In the first half of 2019, he raised $4.7 million through ActBlue from Latinos, who are on track to put $100 million toward Democratic presidential campaigns.

And Sanders’s fundraising has been prolific generally, not just with Latinos. He brought in over $25 million in the third quarter, up $7 million from his second quarter haul and has over a million small donors, with about 130,000 people committed to monthly recurring contributions.

It’s important to note the huge advantage Biden holds with African American voters nationally and, critically, in South Carolina. Biden is holding on to nearly 50 percent black support in this critical primary, which is bound to increase now that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has dropped out of the race. That said, while the main narrative has been that the progressive white candidates have struggled with black voters, Sanders brings in 17 percent support from black voters, putting him firmly in second place with this core group in a new YouGov poll. Moreover, in a UNF survey, Warren and Sanders are tied at 10 percent support among black voters.

Biden is surely happy with his position, and Buttigieg has plenty to smile about with his rise in Iowa and New Hampshire — but there is very good reason for Sanders’s camp to be optimistic. His campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, recently commented: “Media elites and professional pundits have tried repeatedly to dismiss this campaign and yet working-class Americans keep saying loudly and clearly they want a political revolution.”

No one can be sure how this all will pan out, but based on the indicators discussed above we must question why media elites aren’t giving Sanders the attention he deserves in this primary. His rebound from a heart attack just weeks ago has been astounding and he’s gaining support in major areas that count. Taken together, Sanders has real staying power in this race when you consider his support and strong fundraising. News coverage should reflect that.

As someone who never bought what Sanders was selling the last time he ran for president, I’m finding myself in a very different position this time around. I haven’t morphed into a Sanders supporter, but I’ve seen enough to know that something real is going on with his campaign and it’s missing from the typical political coverage.

Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.