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Axios-NewsWhip 2020 attention tracker: Biden dominates

The article below was originally published on June 26.

Joe Biden is dominating the 2020 Democratic field in online attention, showing the extent to which the race is being molded by the current frontrunner while other candidates are defining themselves in relation to him.

What's going on: Articles about Biden are generating far more social media interactions (43.5 million) than any other 2020 Democrat over the last 10 weeks, according to data from Newswhip exclusively provided to Axios as part of a project that will regularly update throughout the 2020 campaign.

  • The next closest is Bernie Sanders, who lags far behind Biden with 24.8 million.

Driving the news: It's not surprising that Biden leads this metric, but the data shows how thoroughly he's dominating social media attention — a clear sign of how Biden is shaping the race.

  • "Especially in the era of Trump, you want to be the center of conversation," Democratic strategist Ian Russell tells Axios. "The candidate who is the center of conversation is driving the narrative and the race is being shaped around him or her."

While much of the recent coverage on Biden has been critical, Trump showed that negative sentiment isn't such a liability when you're dominating reach and driving the race.

  • "If this race is a referendum on Biden, and he comes out of it as being acceptable, that’s a pretty good place to be," Russell says.

Flashback: Here's how the numbers looked in 2016. Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 1, per Newswhip:

  • Donald Trump: 811 million interactions, 1.7 million articles
  • Hillary Clinton: 502 million interactions, 974k articles

By the numbers: The volume of articles about Biden (63k) is the central reason for his high interaction numbers. (Bernie is 2nd with 27k). Over the last 10 weeks, he is only 6th in interactions per article, an indicator of enthusiasm, if not broad appeal.

  1. Bernie Sanders — 895 avg. interactions/article over last 10 weeks
  2. Eric Swalwell — 886
  3. Elizabeth Warren — 789
  4. Pete Buttigieg — 737
  5. Bill de Blasio — 710
  6. Joe Biden — 654

Yes, but: While the volume of interactions does not gauge the sentiment of the reactions, the ability to generate reach allows a candidate to expand the universe of potential voters.

Our 2020 attention tracker is based on data from NewsWhip exclusively provided to Axios as part of a project that will regularly update throughout the 2020 campaign.

See all past editions of the tracker here.