Mar 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden overtakes Bernie with online attention surge

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios — Note: Hover over the weekly rank on desktop to see articles and interactions for each candidate and issues.

In the span of a week, Joe Biden usurped Bernie Sanders as the 2020 Democratic frontrunner, but also as the candidate getting the most online attention, according to data from NewsWhip exclusively provided to Axios.

The big picture: The 41 million interactions (likes, comments, shares) on Biden stories on social media last week is by far the highest level of attention any one candidate has received in the primary in a week, a reflection how much the race now centers around Biden.

Flashback: Just last week, Sanders was attracting more attention than the rest of what was then a five-person Democratic field combined. Sanders had 27.4m interactions, while Biden had just 9.4m.

  • For all of February, just as he held the advantage in polling, Sanders had more interactions. During the week of Feb. 16, he had 29.2m compared to Biden's 3.3m.

The big picture: In a reversal from the early stages of the race — when media cycles and engagement levels drove polling changes — it's now the election results that drive media coverage and interaction levels.

Between the lines: Top-performing stories about Biden included mainstream outlets reporting on fellow moderates dropping out of the race and endorsing him, as well as right-wing sites pouncing on his verbal gaffes and bouts of forgetfulness.

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.

Go deeper: See all past editions of the tracker

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Debate night: Sanders and Biden go head-to-head

Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images.

Sunday's Democratic debate was the primary season's first one-on-one match, with former Vice President Joe Biden taking on Sen. Bernie Sanders on the coronavirus, the "political revolution," women's health, climate, the rise of authoritarianism around the world and minority voter support.

Why it matters: It could be the last primary debate of the 2020 election. Biden is significantly leading in delegates and poised to do well in upcoming nominating contests. He's also adopted more progressive policies from Sanders and former 2020 contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren to draw in their supporters.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

What to watch in tonight's debate: A new Joe Biden

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden at the Democratic debate at Gaillard Center, Charleston, South Carolina, Feb. 25. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Viewers tuning in to tonight’s Democratic debate will meet a new Joe Biden — one who’s adopted two new progressive policies from Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and who’s eager to pull their supporters away from the movement they’ve built into his own coalition.

Why it matters: This could very well be the last primary debate of the 2020 cycle, and Biden knows he has to start the work of winning over Sanders’ supporters before Sanders drops out.