Instead, the candidates are taking a page out of the Trump playbook by attacking the news media, a reliable punching bag for political leaders since the dawn of the free press.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Corey Booker, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Beto O’Rourke and a campaign spokesperson for former Vice President Joe Biden recently blasted the media for one reason or another.
Sanders has been most vocal in chiding “corporate media” as part of his anti-establishment campaign. On Monday, he singled out The Washington Post for negative coverage, suggesting the newspaper was retaliating for his criticism of Jeff Bezos, the billionaire Amazon founder who owns the newspaper.
Marty Baron, executive editor of the Post, responded later that day with a statement calling Sanders’ accusation a “conspiracy theory.” Faced with mounting criticism, Sanders later walked back his earlier remarks.
“Do I think Jeff Bezos is on the phone, telling the editor of The Washington Post what to do? Absolutely not. It doesn’t work that way,” Sanders told CNN.
The criticism of the Post wasn’t an isolated incident for the Sanders campaign, which also has accused the media of only reporting about negative polling data.
Biden spokeswoman Symone Sanders, a former CNN contributor unrelated to Bernie Sanders, criticized the media for fixating on Biden’s gaffes and misstatements at campaign events in Iowa.
"I want to be very clear — this is a press narrative, not a voter narrative,” Sanders said. "If you were to look at the coverage in Iowa this weekend and juxtapose the local newspapers and local television coverage to national media coverage, you would have thought these reporters were at two different events.”
This month, Booker, Gillibrand and O’Rourke took aim at The New York Times for a headline about Trump’s response to mass shootings that killed 31 people in Texas and Ohio.
O’Rourke urged the news media to be tougher on Trump after more details about the Texas shooting indicated it was racially motivated.
“Members of the press: What the f---?” O’Rourke said to a group of reporters. “Connect the dots about what he's been doing in this country. He's not tolerating racism, he's promoting racism.”
The candidates’ criticism of the media hasn’t reached the Trumpian level of labeling the press as a treasonous “enemy of the people,” but it’s unlikely to subside as candidates vie for attention and vent their frustrations about press coverage.