In media and political circles, it's known as the "Full Ginsburg." It's when one notable public figure appears on all five major Sunday morning shows on the same day, and it's usually reserved for policymakers at the center of major breakthroughs.
It came as something of a surprise, then, when Marco Rubio celebrated his fifth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary by pulling off the Full Ginsburg. Then seven days later, following his double-digit loss in the South Carolina primary, Rubio pulled off the Full Ginsburg again, receiving and accepting five more Sunday-show invitations.
When was the last time someone had back-to-back Full Ginsburgs? Never. Rubio, once hailed as "the Republican savior" on the cover of Time magazine, received a media reward that no American has ever received.
Had the Florida senator actually won those primaries, the media's adulation might have been easier to understand, but remember, Rubio made 10 appearances over two Sundays after embarrassing defeats.
The reason for this special treatment is one of those things the political world tends not to talk about, though Slate's Jamelle Bouie recently acknowledged what usually goes unsaid: "[T]he media has a huge crush" on Marco Rubio.
With this in mind, it came as something of a surprise to see Rubio on CBS this morning, complaining about an elaborate media conspiracy -- to help Donald Trump. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent flagged this bizarre quote:
"The media's pumping [Trump] up as some sort of unstoppable force.... Unfortunately he's being pumped up because many in the media with a bias know that he'll be easy to beat in a general election."
In a separate ABC interview this morning -- the conspiracy is so vast, news organizations keep putting Rubio on television so he can share his conspiracy theory -- the senator said the media is "holding back" its Trump criticism in order to hurt Republicans in the fall.
"It’s important for Republicans and conservatives to be aware of what is happening," he added.
So, from Rubio's perspective, the same news organizations that have shown him levels of affection that border on creepy are actually conspiring in secret against him. It's all part of an elaborate media ruse to help Trump defeat Rubio in order to help Democrats.
Remember, thanks to media hype, we're supposed to think Rubio's the smart one in the 2016 field.
The senator's conspiracy theory is so crazy, it's unsettling that he repeated it out loud on national television. Keep in mind that last night, as part of the network's debate coverage, CNN told viewers that Rubio has "new momentum." The network made the claim before the debate, on the heels of Rubio losing the Nevada caucuses -- which he expected to win -- by 22 points.
This, a week after Politico published a lengthy report on Rubio's campaign in South Carolina -- the headline read, "Rubio surges back to electrify South Carolina" -- that read as if his campaign aides had written it themselves.
This, nearly a month after pundits and reporters eagerly pretended Rubio's third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses was actually a triumphant victory.
Greg Sargent recently noted that media figures are "making it absurdly obvious that they want to be able to say Rubio is rising," prompting MSNBC's Chris Hayes to respond, "It's like watching parents attempt to will their toddler into doing a difficult task."
To be sure, this isn't unprecedented. We can probably all think of election cycles in which the media obviously adores a candidate (John McCain in 2000, for example) and obviously scorns another (Al Gore in 2000, for example). It certainly seems as if the "crush" on Rubio is real, but he's not the first to enjoy such affections.
Rubio is, however, the first candidate in recent memory who benefits from the media's overt fondness, but who nevertheless believes the media is engaged in a conspiracy to help one of his rivals, in order to help one of his other rivals.
Such paranoia says something unsettling about the presidential hopeful's perspective.