Media ignores Republican John James' tight Senate race while Dems dominated airwaves before blowout defeats

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GOP candidate John James' campaign ended in a narrow defeat in what turned out to be one of the tightest Senate races in the country against incumbent Michigan Democrat Gary Peters. However, much of the mainstream media chose to hype two Democrats running in deep-red states who were handily crushed after their races were depicted as highly contested. 

James, a businessman and Army veteran, previously ran for Senate in Michigan in 2018 against Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow but was defeated by a 6.5 point margin. Two years later, he tightened the margin against Peters to roughly one point after the Real Clear Politics average of polls gave Peters a much wider 5.4-point advantage.

Though Fox News has called Peters the winner in the Michigan race, James has not conceded, saying on Thursday, "I will of course accept the results and the will of the people, but at this time there is enough credible evidence to warrant an investigation to ensure that elections were conducted in a transparent, legal, and fair manner."

To many conservatives, the 39-year-old politician is widely seen as a rising star in the Republican Party. However, he received little to no attention from the national media during this election cycle. 

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Instead, much of the media spent the past two years elevating the profiles of Amy McGrath and Jaime Harrison, the Democratic challengers who faced off against two of the biggest GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill. 

McGrath, a 45-year-old retired Marine fighter pilot, quickly became a media darling after she launched her bid against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., back in July 2019. Despite raising roughly a whopping $90 million from Democratic donors, she polled consistently between 7-15 points behind McConnell in the weeks leading up until the election, according to FiveThirtyEight. She ended up losing by over 20 points. 

Harrison, the 44-year-old former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, launched his bid against Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham in May 2019 and similarly outraised his GOP opponent with an astonishing $109 million war chest. While polls gave Graham the edge according to Real Clear Politics, Quinnipiac put the two candidates at a tie in late September. Like McGrath, Harrison was defeated by nearly 11 points.

It was once common to think that highly-contested Senate races like the one in Michigan would receive far more national attention from the mainstream media than other races with far more likely predetermined outcomes like the ones in Kentucky and South Carolina. That apparently was not the case. 

According to data from Grabien Media, McGrath's name was mentioned on the five major networks a total of 286 times between May and October of this year. During that same period, Harrison's name was mentioned roughly a whopping 758 times. James received just 47 mentions. 

Harrison dominated the airwaves with 532 mentions on MSNBC alone while McGrath trailed with 214. In addition, the South Carolina Democrat earned 139 mentions on CNN while the Kentucky Democrat received 49. James collectively received 44 mentions between both networks.

James didn't fare well with the broadcast networks either. He was mentioned by CBS twice, once by ABC, and zero times by NBC, according to Grabien. That pales in comparison to McGrath, who was mentioned on NBC three times, CBS eight times, and ABC 12 times. Even more so to Harrison, who got 11 mentions on NBC, 17 on CBS, and 59 on ABC.  

FILE – Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James speaks after dropping off his ballot in Farmington Hills, Mich., in this Oct. 26, 2020 file photo. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Grabien founder and news editor Tom Elliott compiled a "supercut" of the hype both McGrath and Harrison received by CNN and MSNBC. The South Carolina candidate in particular was showered with praise. 

"He's running one of the best campaigns we've ever seen in South Carolina," CNN commentator Bakari Sellers said about Harrison.

"He's made a name for himself as a relatable father and husband who rose out of poverty, went to the Ivy League, and came back home with aspirations for public service," MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi told viewers. 

CNN anchor Brianna Keilar said Harrison was giving Graham a "run for his life" while MSNBC host Rachel Maddow similarly declared he was giving the Republican a "run for his money."

Over on MSNBC, which never had the Michigan Republican on the air, McGrath had done at least eight different interviews with the liberal network since her campaign launch and Harrison appeared at least 16 times, roughly eight of them occurring in the final 30 days of the election. 

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McGrath appeared on CNN at least twice during her campaign and Harrison landed at least four interviews. James never appeared on CNN during his campaign though a CNN report from October 16 indicated that he declined CNN's request for an interview. It is unclear if the network previously invited him on-air. 

Both McGrath and Harrison made frequent appearances on the broadcast networks. McConnell's opponent appeared on ABC's "The View" and NBC's "Late Night with Seth Meyer" while Graham's opponent appeared on "The View," "The Late Show," and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" twice. James did not appear on any of those programs. 

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