Accuracy in Media

Fourteen months away from Election Day 2020, the Democratic Party primary field is narrowing as the fall debates are approaching. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is one such candidate who has qualified for the televised fall debate, but who has struggled to stay relevant during the summer.

Harris’s poll numbers jumped in March before the debates took place, and also after she went toe-to-toe in the early July debate with front-runner Joe Biden on his criminal justice record as senator and vice president. But Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaiian congresswoman, criticized Harris’s criminal justice record in the second debate and it led to Harris’s poll numbers falling in August.

The ups and downs of the campaign trail are inevitable, such as the 2008 primary where front-runner Hillary Clinton lost to upstart Barack Obama for the party nomination, and Harris’s up-and-down campaign is an illustration of a political campaign’s volatility.

In highlighting Harris’s struggles since the second televised debate, Politico obtained an internal memo and talking points from her campaign, which apparently was left behind at a New Hampshire restaurant by her campaign staffers. The memo acknowledged her “summer slump” and included a list of party influencers that her campaign is targeting for the New Hampshire primary.

Other media outlets piled onto Harris’s summer woes, with FiveThirtyEight calling her campaign’s viability into question as most voters back former vice president Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). PolitiFact rated her campaign claim that she sued Exxon Mobil as California state attorney general as “false,” and the New York Times also debunked the same claim.

Although the mainstream media’s coverage of Harris’s campaign is fair, it is unclear if the mainstream media prefers another candidate over Harris. For example, Joe Biden’s camp wondered if the media is in the tank, so to speak, for a specific candidate not named Biden (or Harris). Biden advisers told Politico that they do not understand why Biden is heavily scrutinized, but not Warren or Sanders.

As the fall debate inches closer and the 2020 campaign rolls on, time will tell whether the mainstream media prefers one candidate over the others, but as Biden’s camp alleged, the nomination could be tilted towards either Warren or Sanders.

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