Sep 24, 2019

Axios-NewsWhip 2020 attention tracker: Biden gets a lift as Dems target Trump over Ukraine

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Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Stories about Joe Biden generated millions more interactions on social media than any other 2020 Democrat last week after the firestorm over President Trump’s alleged attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate him, according to data from NewsWhip exclusively provided to Axios.

Why it matters: At a time when Biden has been straining to stay ahead in the polls while showered with negative coverage, this storyline has helped galvanize Democrats to back the former vice president in opposition to Trump.

Between the lines: Biden has sought to make the election about himself as a bulwark against Trump, and this storyline has brought the optics of a Biden-Trump showdown to the forefront of the national conversation.

  • "Every candidate wants to be attacked by the president," says Democratic strategist Ian Russell. "You want this to be a 2-person race...If you're able to get a press cycle or two of you going mano-a-mano against Trump, that's absolutely a good thing for Biden."

By the numbers: Of the 100 biggest stories about Biden last week — amounting to 65% of his overall 4.3 million interactions — 62 were about the Ukraine story. Of those, only 10 frame Biden negatively. Interactions include comments, likes, shares on Facebook and Twitter.Most of those stories covered the revelations about Trump's reported call with the president of Ukraine and the ensuing maelstrom.

  1. If This Isn't Impeachable, Nothing Is (The Atlantic) — 333k interactions
  2. Rudy Giuliani denies asking Ukraine to investigate Biden — before admitting it (CNN) — 79k
  3. Hillary Clinton: 'The president asked a foreign power to help him win an election. Again.' (The Hill) — 75k
  4. Giuliani admits to asking Ukraine about Joe Biden after denying it 30 seconds earlier (Washington Post) — 61k
  5. Biden goes on the attack over Ukraine controversy, pledges to beat Trump ‘like a drum’ (Fox News) — 47k

The big picture: In a splintered Democratic primary in which Biden is frequently warding off attacks, his party is promoting a de-facto defense of the former VP as they go after Trump and call for his impeachment.Yes, but: While Biden is at the center of the news cycle with this story, it doesn't mean he stands to benefit long-term.

  • Russell tells Axios: "It's going to end up blowing back on Trump probably more than it helps Biden because you can be an Elizabeth Warren supporter or a Kamala Harris supporter or a Pete Buttigieg supporter and still say, this crosses the line."

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.

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