Politico reported Monday that U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders told the audience at an MSNBC town hall event that the reason he ran as a Democrat was so that the media would cover him. He spoke frankly when he said that the mainstream media, including MSNBC, would not invite him to debates or town hall events if he ran as an independent.
“In terms of media coverage, you have to run within the Democratic Party.” He then took a dig at MNSBC, telling Todd, the network “would not have me on his program” if he ran as an independent."
Money and media coverage are two major factors in running a viable presidential campaign, because both enhance name recognition and the ability for a candidate to get their message out to more people and attract donors. However, the media doesn't cover independent and third-party presidential campaigns very often.
For instance, how many Americans know about all the independent and third party candidates currently running in the 2016 race? Unless a person is an avid consumer of political news and follows the political scene closely, the odds are very slim, and is still unlikely even for those who do.
That is because mass media coverage is reserved almost exclusively for candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties. The only way candidates outside the major parties can get their name and message out there is if they buy their own ad space, which costs a lot of money.
“To run as an independent, you need — you could be a billionaire," he said. "If you're a billionaire, you can do that. I'm not a billionaire. So the structure of American politics today is such that I thought the right ethic was to run within the Democratic Party.”
Level the Playing Field Chair Peter Ackerman estimates that the amount of exposure each candidate gets from participating in the primary presidential debates alone equates to approximately $260 million. So a billionaire who self-finances his or her own campaign could build a viable campaign, but modern election history shows that having money still isn't enough.
Both Bernie Sanders, who is not a billionaire, and Donald Trump, who is a billionaire, ran for the Democratic and Republican nominations, respectfully, because they knew that was the only way they would have a chance in the presidential race.