Accuracy in Media

As the first presidential primary approaches in February in the form of Iowa caucuses, it is time for voters and donors to make decisions of who will be the top contenders for a party’s presidential primary. The Democratic Party intends to challenge President Donald Trump for the White House in 2020 and is slowly narrowing down its large primary field. The most recent candidate to drop out, former congressman Beto O’Rourke, admitted defeat and ended his campaign.

O’Rourke made headlines when he narrowly lost to Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterm elections, and capitalizing on his name recognition from that race, jumped into the presidential primary race. But his campaign ended before the first primary in Iowa due to a myriad of factors.

His campaign took unconventional tactics to the forefront, such as livestreaming a dental appointment, swearing on national television, and lacking a cohesive and organized campaign staff. He also swore multiple times on nationally-televised interviews, using the f-word to express his outrage over gun violence. O’Rourke also visited primary states that hold primaries later in the presidential primary cycle, which meant his campaign was not focusing on the primaries that could extend the life of his presidential primary campaign.

After O’Rourke officially dropped out, sources told CNN that the mainstream media was at fault for O’Rourke’s failed campaign. CNN’s Eric Bradner said that O’Rourke staffers believed the media mocked the campaign and “was over the top,” and that the mainstream media “was punitive” for O’Rourke refusing interviews early into his campaign.

However, O’Rourke and his staff should recognize that their unconventional approach sunk his candidacy more than the mainstream media. O’Rourke’s lack of a centralized campaign apparatus meant that donors and potential surrogates could not reach him or his staff, which discouraged any potential grassroots momentum in early primary states. Also, the overuse of profanity on television appeared to have a negative effect on public perception, in addition to O’Rourke’s propensity to overshare videos of him at a dental appointment.

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