As the Iowa caucus results rolled in, the wheels were surely turning in the minds of editors at the New York Daily News. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump - the local entry and a favorite tabloid target - was losing to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Which way to go with the cover?
There were so many options. "Iowans fire The Donald"? Nah. A "you're fired" joke is too predictable. "Trump is a loser?" It would've just been white noise. Too many people were already turning Trump's favorite insult around on Twitter.
Instead, the Daily News went with a running theme: "Dead clown walking" - a sequel to "Clown runs for prez" (June 17) and "Insane clown posse" (January 21). Actually, it goes back farther than that - to "Sideshow Don" (April 11, 2011), when Trump was toying with the idea of a 2012 White House bid.
We've shared our reactions to provocative Daily News covers more than once in this election cycle. I must admit that I woke up Tuesday morning curious to see what the paper had come up with.
That's the whole point. The Daily News has me (and presumably other readers, too) waiting eagerly to see what kind of explosive statement it will make next - kind of like Trump himself.
The tabloid's buttoned-up counterpart, the New York Times, noted the buzz around Daily News covers just last week, citing "I'm with stupid" (the January 20 headline that referred to Sarah Palin's endorsement of Trump) as an example.
"It was the latest in a series of attention-grabbing covers that have shifted the conversation around the struggling paper. Just a few months ago, after an aborted sale and sweeping layoffs, The News seemed to have completed its devolution from the model of a big-city tabloid to a battered symbol of the diminished state of America's newspapers. But the recent string of covers, which were all widely shared on social media, have sent a very different message - if not about the paper's long-term financial prospects, then at least about its continuing cultural relevance."
In that case, the Daily News better hope that "Dead clown walking" is an exercise in hyperbole. If Trump's campaign is actually dead, it will take some of the paper's best material to the grave with it.