In the seven days before Super Tuesday, Mike Huckabee was featured in a grand total of 2 percent of presidential campaign stories.
The media -- that is, the same media that all but ignored him before he won the Iowa caucuses in January -- were selling the Republican race as a two-man showdown. John McCain was a significant presence in 37 percent of stories and Mitt Romney in 21 percent, says a study of newspaper, television, radio and online coverage by the Washington-based Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Talk about betting on the wrong horse. Huckabee won five states -- which anchors and pundits treated as a stunning development -- and took Kansas and Louisiana on Saturday, while Romney abruptly dropped out.
Time and again, the media's preferred narratives for this campaign have collided with reality. Remember when journalists repeatedly declared that both nominations would be settled by Feb. 5? Scratch that. How about the blowout television and print coverage of Ted Kennedy anointing Barack Obama as the crown prince of Camelot? Hillary Clinton showed how little it mattered in the heart of Kennedy country, taking Massachusetts by 15 percentage points.
And the whole "back from the dead" story line for McCain exists mainly because journalists all but buried him when his fundraising collapsed last summer. (It would "take a miracle" for McCain to win the early primaries, CBS's Bob Schieffer said then.) Now he's made them look foolish by virtually wrapping up the GOP nomination.
Reporters consistently overestimate the importance of money in presidential campaigns: McCain was out of cash, and Huckabee never had any, so their chances were drastically downgraded. Romney gave his own campaign $50 million and his chances were constantly talked up.
But talk radio and the blogosphere are the dangerous ones because they don't share our rigorous journalistic standards.