This is a rather remarkable observation, from Joshua Green's Atlantic dispatch, on the first official day of Jon Huntsman's presidential campaign [emphasis added];
A few weeks ago, I was up in New Hampshire for Jon Huntsman's maiden swing through the state as a possible -- it's now official -- presidential candidate. The rest of the national press corps seemed to be there, too. At many of the events, we reporters outnumbered actual voters, sometimes vastly.
I wasn't at Huntsman's announcement speech in New Jersey this morning, but word on the ground is that, as in New Hampshire, there were still more members of the media present than actual voters.
This makes no sense, of course, because reporters are supposed to cover the news, not make it. (Right?) But this unfolding phenomenon of lopsided, out-of-context coverage of Republican candidates is indicative of how the Beltway press seems to be throwing itself at the feet of truly marginal candidates, such as Huntsman (who recently finished dead last in an NBC/WSJ poll of possible Republican candidates), and at the feet of would-be candidates, such as Republican governors Rick Perry in Texas and Chris Christie in New Jersey. (Not to mention Sarah Palin.)
In each of these cases, the candidates, or maybe-candidates, have enjoyed the glow of habitual coverage even though they have done absolutely nothing to earn it. Instead, the buzz has been mostly manufactured by the eager pundit class.
Traditionally, candidates had to earn the attention of the press, and did that in many ways, such as straw poll victories, fundraising prowess, impressive debate performances, or attracting huge crowds on the campaign trail. In others words, candidates first needed to build am actual buzz before the press would shower them with attention.
With today's Republican field however, candidates don't even have to become candidates and the press showers them with campaign attention. Think I'm exaggerating? Last week, CNN aired a mostly softball, 60-minute, primetime interview with Gov. Christie, who claims he isn't even running for president.
Or in the case of Huntsman, a Republican can become a candidate, have virtually nothing to show for their efforts (i.e. crowds, polling, fundraising, debate victories), and the press still showers them with attention. Exaggeration? This Sunday's New York Times Magazine will feature an eight-page, 6,200-word piece on Huntsman; a candidate who today remains virtually an unknown among voters.
I really do think we've entered uncharted waters here. And no, I don't think it's a coincidence Republicans are benefiting from the new (non-existent?) guidelines that the press have adopted for the 2012 race, where candidates like Huntsman don't have to accomplish a thing before being rewarded with a growing media spotlight.