It is no secret to anyone – much less the media – that Trump is a ratings magnet. Also, he is the frontrunner in the GOP field right now. So it seems fair that he would get more coverage than the other GOP candidates, at least to some degree.
However, the exact amount of coverage Trump has gotten has been pretty staggering, even considering all of these factors. Per the MRC:
A Media Research Center study finds that, over a two week period, coverage of Donald Trump’s campaign took up nearly 78 percent of all CNN’s prime time GOP campaign coverage – 580 minutes out of a total of 747 minutes. All 16 non-Trump candidates got a combined total of just 167 minutes, much of which was spent comparing them to Trump. More than half of the remaining candidate coverage went to Jeb Bush with almost 12 percent (88 minutes). Twelve of the 17 candidates didn’t even break one percent of the coverage (although Rick Perry has since dropped out of the race, he was still a candidate during the time period analyzed).
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Three Trump campaign events were broadcast in their entirety during these two weeks, not including replays of press conferences that had already occurred. No press conferences for any of the other 16 candidates were broadcast. CNN even bumped its own special commemorating the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina to cover a Trump press conference in Iowa.
As much as Republican primary voters show open disdain for the media, the extent to which Trump has completely dominated the airwaves has had an open and obvious effect on his staying power. One of the main reasons none of the other candidates cannot get traction is that it’s difficult to know what they are even doing or saying, because you only hear about it when Trump responds in his uniquely… ah… bombastic fashion.
Campaigns require some level of coverage about what they are doing to survive. It is simply not possible for sufficient people to hear a candidate’s message at in person events, so public exposure is like oxygen to a candidate’s message. Without it, many of these other campaigns are, quite simply, withering on the vine.
And it isn’t just legacy media that has been prone to this phenomenon. Much of the alternative media that disseminates the conservative message to many Republican primary voters has also glommed on to the idea that talking Trump = ratings. Make no mistake – the media – including “conservative” media like talk radio and prominent conservative columnists – are monetizing the Trump boomlet. And, ultimately, it’s difficult to expect that this will change, as people have always tended to do that which will make them money.
In retrospect, it’s an absolute miracle that Ben Carson has been able to get anywhere, much less gain on Trump, during this time period – and it probably represents the consolidation of the “anybody but Trump” faction as much or more than it does actual identification with Carson as a candidate of preference. If any Republican candidate is able to break through the haze of Trump airwave dominance, it will be an impressive feat, indeed.