Kamala Harris says media favor white males as strongest in 2020

All the Democratic candidates not named Joe are facing a dilemma:

How do they foster the impression that they've got just as good a shot at winning the nomination and beating Donald Trump?

After months of coverage about what a weak candidate Biden would be, he's totally upended the race, at least based on the polls that are crack cocaine for political reporters.

In the latest Hill survey, Biden is at 46 percent in the Democratic race, with Bernie Sanders way back at 14 percent. In the distance are Pete Buttigieg (8 percent), Elizabeth Warren (7 percent) and Kamala Harris (6 percent).

So much for all the punditry that Biden is too old and too out of touch with an increasingly left-wing party. Things can change, Joe may slip into gaffe mode, but at the moment he's running against 20 people and has nearly half the vote.

So as journalists start to write that the former VP looks to be the most electable in the field, his rivals are trying to redefine that term. And they're blaming the press in the process.

Harris is leading the charge. The California senator, who has a natural base in the black community, doesn't like the way "electability" has been baked into the conversation. She argues that this "ignores big swaths of the electorate that she can excite, namely African Americans and women," as Politico put it.

What, exactly, is the former prosecutor's indictment? Here's what she said at the NAACP convention in Detroit:

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"There has been a lot of conversation by pundits about 'electability' and 'who can speak to the Midwest?' But when they say that, they usually put the Midwest in a simplistic box and a narrow narrative, and too often their definition of the Midwest leaves people out. It leaves out people in this room who helped build cities like Detroit. It leaves out working women who are on their feet all day — many of them working without equal pay.

"And the conversation too often suggests certain voters will only vote for certain candidates regardless of whether their ideas will lift up all our families. It's shortsighted. It's wrong. And voters deserve better."

Says the Washington Post, in a piece by an African-American reporter: "Harris's message was clear to the largely black audience at the event: Stop believing the pundits' take on who can win — and instead get behind the candidates you align with personally. While Harris is popular with many among the left — especially for her takedowns of Trump surrogates during Senate hearings — according to the most recent Quinnipiac survey, only 2 percent of voters think she can beat Trump. The number is the same when controlled for voters of color."

But can that really be blamed on the press? Sure, they're influential, but they were pretty positive toward Harris' debut when her kickoff speech drew 20,000 people. The fact that she's gotten relatively little traction since then can't entirely be the media's fault. If Harris had been rising in the polls, that in itself would have generated positive headlines.

Politico quotes Bakari Sellers, a Harris supporter and former South Carolina state rep, as saying "this 'electability' argument is bulls---. It's the biggest faux pas that Democrats are making this election cycle. It disregards the fact that the only Democratic candidate to win the presidency in the last two decades was a black guy."

That's true. But not every candidate is Barack Obama. And unfortunately for the rest of the field, Obama's vice president is running.

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I understand the frustration — not just of Harris but of Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker — that the three top contenders, based on polls, are white men. But who could have predicted that an obscure South Bend mayor would be surging? Sure, Buttigieg has gotten some media love, including the cover of Time, but he's earned some of that by figuring out how to make news with a constant series of interviews.

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Nia-Malika Henderson, an African-American analyst for CNN, buys into Harris' argument about identity politics. She says Biden and Buttigieg believe they "can win in the Midwest because they both have a special unique appeal and power with [white] voters. And where does that special, unique appeal and power come from? Whiteness."

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I also understand the argument that a certain percentage of Democrats, in the wake of Hillary's defeat, are worried that a woman can't beat Trump. But that's not the media's fault, either.

Still, candidates like Kamala Harris have to find a way to reframe these conceptions, or a growing number of people will accept the notion that Biden is running away with it. One way, beginning next month, would be to beat Biden on a debate stage.