Did The Media Screw Edwards?

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THE PLANK JANUARY 17, 2008

Did The Media Screw Edwards?

Greg Sargent seems to think so, citing a new study that found Edwards received only 7 percent of political coverage from January 6-11. Of course, that period came after the Iowa Caucuses--which Edwards failed to win, despite the fact that his campaign had long considered the contest a must-win. (And, while his campaign did try to make a big deal of his second-place finish in Iowa, the fact remains that he was 1 percentage point away from finishing in third and 8 away from finishing first; in other words, his second-place showing wasn't that strong.) So it's hardly surprising that, in the run-up to the January 8 New Hampshire primary--in which Edwards wound up placing a distant third--and then in the days after it, the media didn't give him that much attention.  

If people want to argue that the media screwed Edwards, they'll need to show that they ignored him before Iowa. And I just don't think that's the case. Last summer, after Ezra Klein complained that Edwards wasn't on many magazine covers, I wrote a post (which, like so many other things on our site, continues to be AWOL) that listed the remarkable number of covers he had graced. At the time I think the list included The New Republic, The American Prospect, Men's Vogue, Esquire, and The New York Times Magazine. And I'm sure there have been more since then. One more recent Edwards cover that really sticks in my mind is this Newsweek one from just a couple weeks before Iowa. I'm sorry, but being touted as as "The Sleeper" on the cover of a national news magazine with more than 3 million readers right before the first nomination contest isn't being ignored.

Now, magazine covers are admittedly an imperfect measure, but I think Edwards received plenty of media attention in the year before the caucuses and primaries began. Maybe he didn't receive as much as Hillary and Obama, but then his candidacy wasn't as historic as theirs, plus he trailed them in the national polls. Edwards ran a very good campaign and I think you can make the argument that he actually had the biggest impact in terms of policy on the race--setting a progressive standard that the other candidates tried to meet--but he lost, and the fact that he lost wasn't the media's fault.

--Jason Zengerle 

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posted in: the plank, iowa

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