The crashing and burning of the once-promising Scott Walker for president campaign is very illustrative of a major media dynamic in conservative politics. Regardless of who you might support currently, I think you’ll recognize it.
And keep in mind that this is just an observation, not an editorial comment about whether it should or should not be this way. It is what it is.
Consider: way back on March 24th, 2015 BT (Before Trump), I posited the notion here at Breitbart that the “most important primary of all” was not Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or even Florida. In fact, the most important primary was not an official state primary at all. But winning this contest – or at least doing very well – is nonetheless crucial for the nomination. A compelling case can be made that winning this particular primary is the only way a non-establishment candidate can possibly win the nomination.
So what is this “most important primary?” No, it’s not the Breitbart Primary per se — though Breitbart’s sites are a major part of it. For the record, Breitbart had not launched their primary at the time.
Generally speaking, I’m referring to the nexus of the flavoring of the material covered on the big talk radio shows and the big time conservative internet sites. This would include mainly, but perhaps not be limited to, Rush Limbaugh, The Drudge Report and the Breitbart sites. Now to clarify up front, this does not mean that either Rush or Drudge or the Breitbart staff is officially endorsing anyone. In fact, none of them are. Getting an official endorsement is not the point.
What it does mean is that it’s essential to get a lot of coverage — and mostly or all positive coverage — in all of these venues. Especially the three mentioned above. The combined impact of these three is akin to tens of millions of dollars of advertising – and yet even more effective than paid ads.
What normally follows is that the commenters on these sites and listeners to these shows are on board in large numbers with the preferred candidate. This is not a sheep-like devotion. These are the high information and active voters and donors – and they avail themselves of talk radio and the conservative internet because they are high information – and want to remain high information and highly active as well.
It’s no secret to say that Donald Trump is clearly winning this “primary” at the moment. And he’s clearly routing the entire field at the moment as well. This is not a coincidence. But history bears this out – earlier in this cycle – and in the last cycle as well.
For example, at the time of the March article floating this theory, the man winning that primary was clearly Scott Walker. He was coming off some sterling speaking performances in Iowa, and his record of achievement in Wisconsin was becoming more well known. Rush was effusive with his praise, and Drudge and Breitbart had numerous positive headlines and photographs about Walker’s emergence, his union-busting record and his victories over in effect national organized labor.
Walker enjoyed numerous weeks with numbers way up in the mid to high 20’s. And even though the field was small at the time, these polls normally included all potential names. In fact, Walker was not an officially declared candidate at the time. He was still attracting volunteers and donors. He appeared to be setting up a major and formidable campaign built to last.
However, Walker made some mistakes and statements that drew the ire of, or at least the suspicion of, the audiences of Rush, Drudge and Breitbart. As such, Walker got more negative coverage and less positive coverage – and with these three major outlets – there was a multiplying effect. Rush, Drudge and Breitbart tend to impact all of conservative media after all. Well, not Fox or the Wall Street Journal – but I did say conservative.
Also recall the 2011-2012 cycle. Rick Perry did well in this “primary” early on, and his numbers were in the 30’s. Then Perry crashed in the debates while Newt Gingrich started developing traction with his superb performances. After a while, it was Newt who was getting a lot of the love from these outlets. In fact, Newt was routing the field in both December of 2011 prior to Iowa – and then in response to all six candidates running anti-Newt ads – he embarked on the disastrous Bain Capital attacks on Mitt Romney – from the left.
He caught a hell storm of derision from Rush, Drudge and Breitbart – as he should have. He tanked.
But then he got back on track during the entire week of South Carolina, which he won by 13 points after two more dominating debate performances. During this week, the multiplying effect of Rush, Drudge and Breitbart was making sure everyone knew of Newt’s delicious take downs of liberals in the White House, the Congress, the media, in the courts and in academia. He was once again winning this “primary” and thus dominating the polls.
He then went off the rails in Florida, and the rest is history. But that’s another story. The history is clear: if you want to win the Republican nomination as a non-establishment candidate, you must win – or come close to winning – the most important media primary of all. If Donald Trump continues to dominate this primary, he will in fact be the Republican nominee.