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Joe Biden and the ‘electability’ delusion — and why the media keep making the same mistake

Margaret Sullivan writes:

As Iowa journalist Robert Leonard talks to voters around his state, he finds himself baffled at the national portrayal of Joe Biden’s dominance in the presidential campaign.

The local Democrats he encounters respect the former vice president, he told me, but many of them also feel his time has passed.

They’re far more excited about other candidates, five in particular: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.); Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind.; Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.); former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.).

So he shakes his head at the extensive coverage and commentary that depicts Biden as almost a shoo-in for a nomination that’s more than a year away.

One example: CNN’s morning briefing newsletter recently called Biden “the most formidable threat” to President Trump’s reelection chances.

CNN is far from alone. It’s common across the national media to see Biden pegged as the safest candidate for Democrats to put up to unseat Trump. He’s got that secret sauce: electability.

“Sure, Democrats think he’s electable, but they believe a half-dozen other candidates are, too,” Leonard, the news director of two Iowa radio stations, told me. “No one I have spoken with sees Biden as more formidable than other top candidates.”

But this thinking — much of it driven by early polling — creates a self-perpetuating effect: Biden is the front-runner, so he gets more media coverage. [Continue reading…]

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