"Politics," the media philosopher Marshall McLuhan once said, "will eventually be replaced by imagery."
Such a sentiment may have sounded radical in its time. But today McLuhan's observation seems more like a matter-of-fact reckoning of the campaign of '08, which has taken political image-making to new heights -- and sometimes shocking depths -- on television and the Internet.
It all adds up to an election cycle in which politics and imagery have completely fused. And furthering this discomfiting merger are the media personalities who, like the candidates, have seen their fortunes altered by the rich sweep of events, or sometimes simply by their own determined hogging of the spotlight.
So this column has picked a few of the recent media standouts, arranged in no particular order. We've tried to leave off obvious choices, such as Jon Stewart (whose ratings rose to record highs on last week's Obama interview) or Oprah Winfrey. We've also added a "yea" or "nay" vote that handicaps prospects for each celeb to rise to even greater fame -- or notoriety -- during the coming months: