"The road to the nomination now runs through the newsrooms."1 This is the way Thomas E. Patterson, the media analyst, has described the contemporary presidential selection process. Nor can one disagree with Patterson's observation that "Today's presidential campaign is essentially a media campaign."2 Especially in the nominating phase of the campaign, the mass media have become the principal intermediary between the presidential candidates and the primary state voters. Indeed, political scientist Richard Rubin suggested some years ago that it was the media's intense coverage of the presidential primaries in the 1960s that helped legitimize primaries "as the democratic way to make nomination choices." 3
The mass media, in some respects, play a more critical role in the nominating process than the general election because before the primary season presidential candidates generally are not well known to the electorate. Indeed, during this period, prospective primary voters are paying only marginal attention (or none at all) to the candidates. Even as the primaries approach, prospective voters find themselves at a disadvantage in making electoral choice because they cannot rely on party identification--the most reliable indicator of voter choice--since all of their choices are from the same party.
Presidential candidates and the mass media are almost completely codependent upon each other. In a mass society presidential candidates would face an insurmountable task of communicating with millions of voters