“Why Kamala Harris is the new frontrunner,” intoned CNN in November 2018. Since then, that narrative has stuck. ” “Harris is what passes for the conventional-wisdom front-runner right now,” Bloomberg wrote. The praise was bipartisan, as Fox News made “Kamala Harris, Democratic frontrunner” its headline.
I could list many more examples, but instead of doing that, let’s discuss who the actual frontrunners are.
RealClearPolitics does aggregates of polling across a gamut of surveys. Here’s who is in the lead, according to them:
As you can see, former Vice President Biden and Vermont Independent Senator Sanders have long been the frontrunners of the Democratic race. Harris sits significantly behind them (and O’Rourke) in most of the polling.
That isn’t to say that these polls are entirely predictive — meaning the final results will look like this. Especially with the strange and convoluted primary and caucus system that goes state-by-state, it will likely change a lot.
But the news media seems to be intentionally tipping the scales for Harris. Major news networks covered her launch rally live, and CNN gave her a premiere town hall (they didn’t do so for Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren or other announced contenders). They are declaring her a frontrunner when she’s far behind in the surveys of voters. I don’t remember the news media declaring Sanders the frontrunner when he was far behind Clinton in the polling.
Of course, the news media is mostly going with their gut feelings, and displaying its personal biases. Which is fine, but maybe they should just say, “This is who we want to be president,” or “This is who we think Democratic voters will choose based on semi-irrational emotional biases.” They shouldn’t declare anything about their process to be neutral, impartial, or scientific.