Progressive media saw the Ocasio-Cortez upset coming

See moment Ocasio-Cortez realized victory
See moment Ocasio-Cortez realized victory

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a brand new name to most voters. But readers of The Intercept have been hearing about her for months.

On Tuesday Ocasio-Cortez scored a stunning primary night victory over veteran Representative Joseph Crowley in New York's 14th congressional district. The upset was also a win for The Intercept, a four-year-old website with progressive bonafides. The site covered Ocasio-Cortez's audacious congressional campaign early and often, promoting her as an alternative to the Democratic establishment.

On Tuesday night some political observers equated The Intercept's role with Breitbart and Laura Ingraham's role in the race that overthrew Eric Cantor in 2014.

Ocasio-Cortez herself gave some credit to the site, telling The Washington Post (which was also ahead of the curve about her candidacy) that an early Intercept story about her was a "game-changer."

For the most part, the race was covered by local media, like NY1, Politico New York and the Village Voice. It wasn't on the radar of many national outlets.

So The Intercept was a key source of national attention -- getting her name and platform in front of the "right" people outside her district. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight credited Ocasio-Cortez with being "media-savvy enough to draw a lot of coverage from lefty outlets (but not very much from mainstream outlets, which she may not have wanted anyway)."

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At The Intercept, Ryan Grim, the DC bureau chief, keyed in on the race months ago. In May he and reporter Aida Chavez wrote a key profile of Ocasio-Cortez. "That's how I heard about her," one of the site's founding editors Jeremy Scahill said.

On Tuesday night he tweeted out credit to Chavez and Grim for "understanding the @Ocasio2018 moment early."

Scahill and another one of the site's biggest names, Glenn Greenwald, followed up with in-depth interviews.

On a podcast with Scahill at the end of May, Ocasio-Cortez said "my opponent is the institutional Democratic Party" -- music to The Intercept's ears.

The Intercept not only featured Ocasio-Cortez, it pummeled Crowley, publishing investigations of his campaign donors and other matters.

Scahill said he could sense that the coverage was garnering attention far from New York.

"I had a speech in Wisconsin last week and I mentioned her name and she got big applause. In Wisconsin," he said Tuesday night.

Ocasio-Cortez also kept in close touch with The Young Turks, a progressive streaming TV network, and other outlets that boosted Bernie Sanders' campaign in 2016. She gave interviews to The Young Turks on Monday and again via Skype right after the victory Tuesday night.

The Washington Post's Dave Weigel, who tracked her campaign, told CNN that "the left has discovered a media infrastructure that can bring attention to candidates who might be ignored because they don't fit a traditional, horse race media narrative."

He wrote on Wednesday that Ocasio-Cortez "simply outplayed" her opponent Joe Crowley "across the media."

Weigel noted in his story that "by the final week of the campaign, when she briefly left the state to see conditions at immigrant detention centers in Texas, she was updating Vogue on how the campaign was going."

And come Wednesday morning, the major networks were calling. She phoned in to "CBS This Morning" and appeared live on MSNBC and CNN to discuss her victory.

On-the-ground organizing surely played a huge role in the district, but The Intercept and other outlets lifted Ocasio-Cortez onto a national progressive stage. Jonathan Martin of The New York Times traced some of it back to The Intercept's coverage.

"Seems clear: @RyanGrim and the Intercept just got their first big scalp a la Breitbart w Eric Cantor," he tweeted Tuesday night.

Grim's reaction? He told CNN: "This is a wake up call. People care about corruption, and our mission has always been to expose the way power works, and who it works for. This shows without a doubt that there is an audience for that."

Correction: This article originally misstated Ryan Grim's title at The Intercept. He is its D.C. bureau chief.


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