Even then, news media often characterized the result as a virtual tie and a huge boost for Sanders, whose near-comeback seemed to validate him as a serious contender. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, I rounded up the headlines on the morning after.
Clinton’s win in Nevada on Saturday played completely differently in the press. News outlets (well, most of them) called the race pretty early, as the former secretary of state held a comfortable — if not commanding — lead of about five points with a majority of precincts reporting.
And journalists were much more generous with their praise than they had been in Iowa.
Clinton will be giving her first *actual* victory speech today. She may have won Iowa, but that speech was anything but declarative.— Dan Merica (@merica) February 20, 2016
Hillary Clinton pushed really hard on the Vegas strip right up to the very, very end. Impressive push. She earned the win.— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) February 20, 2016
On some level, a win is a win. But perception and momentum matter, and the media play a key role in shaping both. Clinton needed a victory in Nevada, but what she really needed was a convincing victory that wouldn't be qualified and diminished in every press account.
She got it. And now the narrative becomes about how she appears to be regaining control of the race and looks to be on her way toward exorcising the ghosts of 2008.