In Defying the Odds, we discuss the early stages of the 2016 campaign, when many candidates were unknowns. The update -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. We are concluding the early stages of the 2020 race.
To you, “leftovers” might mean the two-thirds of a honey-baked ham still sitting in your fridge — but to political junkies, it means the rapidly dwindling number of presidential candidates. In the past 24 hours, two Democrats have dropped their long-shot bids for the White House: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Rep. Joe Sestak.
After the number of major presidential candidates (by FiveThirtyEight’s definition) peaked at 24 in early July, there are now “only” 16 candidates remaining. (Finally, Democrats have fewer presidential candidates than Republicans did at the height of the 2016 primary!)
Both candidates argued that a grassroots approach of convincing one voter at a time could build them a loyal following, and both focused on Iowa in particular, where they spent much of their time. But as they discovered, the reality is that retail politicking may not actually help candidates win votes.
In fact, these days, media coverage may be the most important factor in presidential campaigns, and Bullock and Sestak got very little of it. My colleague Dhrumil Mehta has been tracking the number of cable and online news stories featuring the 2020 candidates, and he consistently found that Bullock was among the least-covered, while Sestak was regularly dead last in TV and online news mentions. Indeed, it was not without justification that Sestak lamented in his dropout announcement that his campaign lacked “the privilege of national press” — although given that he hadn’t won an election in nine years and entered the presidential race relatively late, we were skeptical about his chances anyway.