Oct 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Voter isolation grows as 2024 candidates forgo mainstream media

a blue megaphone with an American flag

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

America is on the verge of the first truly parallel universe presidential campaign — where the parties speak to distinct groups of voters, in distinct media ecosystems, pushing distinct realities.

  • Why it matters: The days of appearing on the same media channels or even the same debate stage seem over.

Forget traditional debates. Equal time on conventional TV. Or mainstream reporters pushing candidates from both parties.

  • Instead, narrowcasting playbooks that have been road-tested in this year's midterms will be deployed at scale.

The result: The right talking to the right ... Left talking to the left ... And the new silent majority — people who don't marinate in tweets or cable news — left out like never before.

  • Debates are a key casualty. As we told you yesterday, they've dwindled in this year's congressional races. Ahead of 2024, the RNC formally cut ties with the Commission on Presidential Debates after 35 years.

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Josh Kraushaar: So-called silent majority swing voters have mostly tuned out political noise — they view it as a partisan kabuki show. They’re voting on the economy.

  • These are the voters who have given both parties a vote of no-confidence since 2006 — and have been responsible for Congress swinging back and forth in so many elections since then.

Zoom in: For a '24 preview, look at this year's re-election campaign by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), which is being staffed, funded and run as a forerunner to a presidential bid.

  • Former President Trump relished engaging with the mainstream media — even while bashing it as fake.
  • But DeSantis shuns and shuts out most traditional media, and loves to try to embarrass reporters who press him. Earlier this month, when CNN correspondent Nadia Romero questioned whether there should have been more evacuations in Lee County, where Hurricane Ian made landfall, DeSantis parried: "Where was your industry stationed when the storm hit? Were you guys in Lee County? No. You were in Tampa."

Zoom out: It's not just Florida. Danielle Kurtzleben, an NPR politics correspondent, wrote this summer that when she went to Wisconsin to report how the abortion issue was affecting midterm races, "the idea was to do one story on the Democrats and one on the Republicans."

  • "I heard back from the Democrats but not the Republicans," she recalled. "Phone calls, emails, Facebook messages — I didn't hear back from anyone. The top Republican governor candidates posted no events, though their social media showed they were out, talking to voters."

And it's not just Republicans. President Biden's aides, long frustrated by the legacy media's filter, are increasingly going around it, NBC's Mike Memoli wrote last week:

  • During a West Coast swing this month, "Biden sat down in person with actors Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett for a conversation that will air ... on 'SmartLess,' one of the most-listened-to podcasts. During a trip to the Detroit auto show in September, he talked [to] Daniel Mac — and his 12 million followers on TikTok."

The bottom line: Polarized America is about to become even more so.

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