The media braces for its second Trump marriage

There is a more fundamental media challenge for Trump, too, which would also be an issue for DeSantis. Campaign reporters get excited about new politicians, and they tend to dismiss and punish old ones. The electorate, too, has a knack for following along. We saw this in 2008, when newcomer Barack Obama largely received gushing press while Hillary Clinton and John McCain were framed as has-beens. The pattern repeated itself during the 2012 Republican primaries, in which Mitt Romney—already familiar to the press corps thanks to his failed 2008 campaign—consistently faced negative coverage while a parade of Shiny Metal Object opponents arrived on the scene, grabbed the media’s attention, and climbed the polls. Romney survived that primary, of course, but he continued to face snarky and dismissive coverage until his loss in November. And more recently, as I mentioned earlier, Biden was a nothingburger for the press throughout the Democratic presidential primaries.

So while Trump would certainly be the frontrunner, a dominant fundraiser, and a pied piper for red America, I suspect the media will cover him with not only the same kind of contempt they have for years, but I have a hunch they’ll also treat him a little bit like a sad, over-the-hill figure, while attention moves to a potentially more interesting rival from Florida. The MAGA right certainly doesn’t care what the lamestream media thinks, sure, and the conservative media ecosystem is much more robust and wacky than it was in 2016. But there are plenty of center-right voters who don’t live inside that bubble. In elections, independent voters have always demonstrated a habit of following the currents of the almighty “narrative”—and by 2024, if the country feels as meh as it does now, voters on the right and in the middle might be open to getting on board with someone new, different, and slightly less orange.