For people who have lost faith in politics, the market has corrected. If you think about people who became the Freak Show, the bombastic celebrities on the right—Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, Allen West, Michele Bachmann—they all had their rise, they all got their fame, and they all flamed out because voters rejected them.John Sides pushes back smartly, noting that the bombastic celebrities flamed out in part because the media, including Politico, made that happen. Just a simple review of the chronology should tell us that VandeHei's story makes no sense. The Iowa Caucus was held on January 3, 2012. Cain dropped out of the presidential race at the beginning of December 2011. Trump dropped out in May 2011. Palin never entered a single contest. Of the "bombastic celebrities on the right," only Bachmann actually stayed in to see what voters had to say, and she was gone within a few hours of placing sixth in Iowa, not bothering to wait for the opinions of voters in other states. (Okay, I guess we could count Gingrich as a bombastic celebrity -- he stuck around for a few more contests.)
But this isn't just a media story. This is also a parties story. As was painfully clear throughout 2011 and early 2012, Republican party insiders really didn't want most of these candidates in the race. The early endorsements by Republican elected officials went strongly for Mitt Romney early on. This sent a clear signal to the other candidates that it would be hard going for them. Romney could have an off day (failing to lock down the Iowa Caucus, losing to Gingrich in South Carolina, etc.), and party leaders would still be there to defend him and make sure donations kept coming in and volunteers kept showing up. Who stood by Herman Cain when stories about sexual harassment or his ridiculous world map surfaced? Who defended Michele Bachmann when she claimed that the HPV vaccine caused instant mental retardation? Who backed up Rick Santorum's endorsement for a war with China? Basically, no one. That's a real downside of not being the party insider's choice. Yes, the media can affect the early primary race, but party insiders' support for candidates, or lack thereof, can make a big difference as to how the media end up covering those candidates in the first place.