On the eve of Monday’s Iowa caucus, Donald Trump had an estimated a lead of up to 7 points over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and as usual, he let people know it. But only hours later, the mogul-turned-GOP-front-runner suffered his first concrete defeat of the election cycle, placing second behind his rival.
Among the media class, there was no shortage of relish that Trump had emerged as his own worst nightmare — a loser. The joke would get a lot of mileage as pundits and political reporters did a jig while the votes came rolling in.
“The Night Donald Trump Became A Loser,” read a BuzzFeed headline. The author, McKay Coppins, also tweeted, “I can actually think of worse ways to spend the first couple hours of my birthday than writing about Donald Trump becoming a loser.” “Donald Trump is a loser,” echoed National Journal’s Ron Fournier. “The most fragile ego in politics must win New Hampshire.” “Donald Trump, campaigning as the ultimate winner, is now a loser,” wrote the Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star.
The Washington Post’s dial-a-pundit, Chris Cillizza, joined in with an attempt at a meme:
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) February 2, 2016
Another reporter was a bit pithier, tweeting an image of the proverbial humble pie. The New York Daily News departed from the “loser” motif with a colorful splash on Tuesday’s edition: “DEAD CLOWN WALKING,” complete with Trump decked out in face paint.
There was a palpable sense that the media was getting back at Trump after months of futile protest: Fox News had effectively said good riddance to Trump when he decided to skip its last GOP debate; the conservative magazine National Review launched an entire issue “Against Trump,” and the Huffington Post, after face-planting with an anti-Trump editorial policy last year, took another shot at the idea last week: It now appends every article about the candidate with a footnote calling him a “racist” and a “liar.”
“We’re planning to add this note to all future stories about Trump,” Huffington Post said in a statement to International Business Times. “No other candidate has called for banning 1.6 billion people from the country! If any other candidate makes such a proposal, we’ll append a note under pieces about them.”
HuffPost did not comment on why Trump’s proposed Muslim ban is the only policy worthy of earning the label “racist,” and did not explain the reasoning to include the word “liar.” A spokesperson reached for comment did not explain why the terms would not apply to other candidates who share some parts of Trump’s proposals toward Mexicans, Muslims and Arabs, such as Cruz, who has long endorsed Trump’s stances on border security and, along with “moderate” Jeb Bush, suggested the United States should screen for Christian refugees fleeing carnage in Syria over their Muslim countrymen.
In any case, the website’s splash on Tuesday morning after the mogul’s defeat was giddy: “TRUMP BUYS THE FARM.”
As many pointed out, next week’s New Hampshire primary will be a chance for Trump to put all the caucus-hazing to rest.
Sen. Marco Rubio, on the other hand, was fortunate enough to see a new “Rise of Marco” meme materialize as votes were counted in real time Monday night. Mainstream news sources such as Fox News and CNN didn’t shy away from hyping a Rubio “surge,” even as he came in third place, much to the consternation of several writers and critics. Politico even put out a piece before the caucuses guaranteeing that Rubio would exceed expectations no matter where he placed in the top three.
Leading the pack was Fox News’ Sean Hannity, who, true to form, was more or less cheerleading Rubio at the candidate’s own rally. (He refers to the senator as Marco in casual conversation.)
The way conservative pundits (and even some straight political reporters) are trying to make Rubio happen is really something.
— Jason Zengerle (@zengerle) January 31, 2016
Hannity is playing hype-man at Rubio rally before he interviews the candidate live before the event
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) January 27, 2016
With New Hampshire up next, Trump has a chance to strike back and kill the deadly media angle that his support is all hype, while Rubio has suddenly received great expectations to assume his rightful role as the only electable candidate who can lead anti-Trump forces to a sensible GOP nomination.