Media Bias? Yes, Against Clinton's Coronation

The promotion of Joe Biden is a sure sign that the press is desperately trying to make the 2016 Democratic race competitive.

Are you not entertained?

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Want to see real media bias? It’s coming -- in the form of trying to stir up a genuine fight for the Democratic presidential nomination.

This isn’t because the press dislikes Hillary Clinton. It’s because political reporters and TV correspondents and producers always benefit from presidential elections. That puts them on the side of the underdog in a nomination battle after a clear leader emerges: The underdog promises to keep the campaign going longer.

It isn't just about higher ratings or more face time on TV. As David Weigel of Bloomberg Politics said about press incentives, “In general it’s just much more fun to cover would-be presidents scrapping for Iowa/NH than to watch a Clinton juggernaut roll in.” 

Look at Matt Bai's column at Yahoo News on Thursday. He begs Joe Biden to run.

Bai pretends Clinton is still a maybe candidate (“very few people on the planet -- possibly only people named Clinton -- know what’s really in Hillary’s mind, and in her stomach”). In fact, she has been operating at full speed ahead for years now. Sure, any candidate can drop out. But few Democrats are pushing her to make it official -- a good sign that she has been assuring everyone she isn't going anywhere. 

In arguing the case for Biden, Bai includes this stretch:

Not incidentally, Biden is especially popular in Iowa, where he first campaigned for president in 1988, and where he retains unusually strong ties. (The Clintons, you may recall, have never met with great affection there.) I remember being struck, in 2008, by the regularity with which Iowa Democrats told me that Biden was their second choice and would have been first if they thought he could actually win.

Wait a minute. The “especially popular” Biden drew … 1 percent of the vote in the 2008 Iowa caucuses. Clinton, despite lacking any “great affection there,” still drew 29 percent of the caucus total. In the real world, Democrats for whatever reason don’t appear to have any interest in making Joe Biden their candidate and never have. They want Hillary Clinton.

Expect more press support for a Clinton challenger. And expect the same on the Republican side if Jeb Bush or Scott Walker or one of the others wraps up the nomination early but hasn't formally clinched it. It's what happened to George W. Bush in 2000, when the entire press corps became John McCain’s cheering section for a couple of months. The rest of us don't have to play along. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.