But “blaming” the press for the Trump surge neglects the salient fact that so much of the coverage of him has been darkly negative. According to the old journalistic cliché, reporters love to build up candidates so they can tear them down. It Trump’s case, the press didn’t build him up first, they went directly to demolition, examining the dirt from his past—his divorces, his wild exaggerations, his bad business deals, his lobbying, his feuds, his college years, his high-school years, his wobbly grasp on public policy, his history as a birther and the rip-off that is Trump University. Trump’s flip-flops make him an unreliable candidate, the press said. He cheats at golf. He possesses the limited vocabulary of a child, has bad taste, and has said some of the dumbest and most outrageous things. When, long before he rose to the top of the polls, he insulted John McCain, the press tore into him with renewed velocity. His vile generalization about Mexicans and his ugly comments about Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina earned him more of the same. I’m sure flattering pieces have been published about him in the past three months, I just can’t find many of them.
Much of the Trump coverage has devoted itself to predicting his early political demise—not exactly the kind of press clips a candidate covets. In June, when Trump announced, the consensus press view was that he had no chance to win. As his campaigned geared up in July and he climbed in polls, the press and the commentariat declared that peak Trump. (See Washington Post National Journal, NBC News [“Donald Trump Has Nowhere to Go But Down”] and POLITICO). But that turned out to be a false peak, as Trump continued to rise in August. This prompted additional stories about him peaking (see the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Washington Examiner and Mother Jones). Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol grew so certain Trump’s end was near that he signed the candidate’s death certificate on Twitter 10 times between July 20 and August 14.