A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter.
“UNITE OR FIGHT?” was one of the banner headlines on The Drudge Report Monday night, right below “DEMS SET FOR SUPER TUESDAY DRAMA!”
Drama, indeed. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar’s departures left four leading candidates in the Democratic race: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg, and Elizabeth Warren. Even just a cursory look at the news coverage on Monday showed that Sanders had the passion, Bloomberg had the money, and Biden had the establishment support.
Since Saturday, Biden has been capitalizing on his victory in the South Carolina primary and using it to influence Super Tuesday voters. He won the endorsements of Klobuchar, Buttigieg and a third former rival for the Democratic nomination, Beto O’Rourke, on Monday. It was made-for-TV moment after made-for-TV moment. The lead headline in Tuesday’s New York Times captured what was going on: “Rivals Swiftly Back Biden In a Push to Stop Sanders.”
The big wave of Biden endorsements sent a signal “that he is the guy to get behind,” that he’s the guy for the center-left to consolidate behind, David Axelrod said on CNN. And that was important because “his next big mission… is to get the guy with $60 billion to consolidate behind him.”
Axelrod was talking about Bloomberg. The former New York City mayor is clearly winning in terms of “paid media,” i.e. the TV and radio and digital ad campaign that is impossible to miss.
But the Biden campaign believes it is winning with “earned media,” i.e. news coverage. “It’s been an earned media tsunami into Super Tuesday,” a Biden campaign aide said Monday night. “All you’re seeing is Joe Biden.” And that’s been by design.
“Earned media” is also known as “free media” in the political lexicon. “This 72-hour stretch has got to be the Free Media Bonanza to end all Free Media Bonanzas,” Politico’s Tim Alberta tweeted Monday night. “Could not have played out any better for them,” Ryan Lizza added.
And it will continue on Tuesday morning. Klobuchar will be on TV on Biden’s behalf, appearing on “CBS This Morning” and the “Today” show.