WASHINGTON - Ask the average voter what do they really know about the presidential front-runners, and their likely answer is probably not much…that matters.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump get lots of attention from the television network news shows, but their shallow reporting isn't known for digging into their secret, shadowy transgressions.
That job has usually fallen to our nation's newspapers who have the journalistic resources, talent and the space, to scour deeply into the candidates' hidden lives, warts and all.
As was done in the Watergate scandal that sent high level officials to prison and forced Richard Nixon to resign the presidency. With little more than five months remaining in the 2016 elections, there is growing evidence that a full-court press attack has begun on Donald Trump.
In the past week, The New York Times rolled out a 5,000 word investigative piece, based on hundreds of interviews, on Donald Trump's relationships with women, going back to his college days.
And this week it was revealed that the Washington Post is mounting an aggressive investigation into Trump's entire life in what the paper intends to turn into a book-length, scandal-breaking biography.
Post reporter Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, said the newspaper has assigned 20 reporters to the story, with marching orders to explore every nook and cranny of the real estate mogul's business deals, finances, relationships, back room skullduggery, lawsuits, taxes, and the wealthy people behind his presidential bid.
The go-ahead for the unprecedented investigation came directly from Amazon.com founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, who owns the Post and is embroiled in a bitter war of words with Trump over his decision to conduct a full-scale inquiry into the candidate's past.
Last week, in an interview on Fox News hosted by Sean Hannity, the TV reality show celebrity went after Bezos, accusing him of "getting away with murder, tax-wise. He's using The Washington Post for power so that politicians in Washington don't tax Amazon like they should be taxed."
Obviously irked by the power of the Post's reportorial resources to conduct an exhaustive investigation into his personal and business affairs, Trump says he doesn't like the constant calls his office is getting from the newspaper.
"Every hour, we're getting calls from reporters from The Washington Post asking ridiculous questions, and I will tell you, this is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos…"
"Amazon is controlling so much of what they're doing," Trump told Hannity. "And what they've done is he bought this paper for practically nothing, and he's using that as a tool for political power against me and... other people, and I'll tell you what, we can't let him get away with it."
Bezos responded Wednesday, in an appearance at a technology conference sponsored by his paper, that he "had no worries" about Amazon being examined about its taxes. But he added that "It's critical that we be able to carefully examine our leaders."
The Post denied that Bezos had any role in the decision to launch its ambitious investigation.
But there is no doubt that the Post's owner supported the paper's decision to target so much of its investigative resources on Trump.
"We want a society where any of us, any individual or institution, if they choose to, can scrutinize, examine and criticize… a candidate for the highest office in the most powerful country on Earth," Bezos said, according to the Post.
But what about Hillary's obsessively secretive past and the scandals that have plagued her career, including the Clintons' shady investments in their Arkansas Whitewater real estate deal; her bungled health care plan that was so bad, Democrats refused to vote on it; her failure to obtain needed U.S. security at our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where terrorists killed our ambassador and three other Americans; and the classified materials she irresponsibly sent on a secret, unsecured, private e-mail account during her four years at the State Department.
The FBI and other investigative agencies are still digging into the e-mail scandal, which is still being characterized as a "criminal probe." They're questioning Clinton's top aides and advisers and searching for documents, many of which she said were personal and that she later deleted.
"So far, investigators have found scant evidence tying Clinton to criminal wrongdoing, though they are still probing the case aggressively and charges have not been ruled out," the Post reported recently.
A former State Department official, who had worked on setting up Clinton's private e-mail server, has been given immunity for his cooperation in the investigation.
Meantime, Woodward, the Post reported, said Bezos "has urged the newspaper to produce multiple stories" -- from 15-part to 20-part series -- on "who the eventual nominee will be in both parties…we want to look at every part of their lives…"
But don't be surprised if the Post's emphasis will be on Trump. They are a die hard Democratic newspaper that, with rare exceptions, supports liberal Democrats. And will most likely endorse Clinton in the general election.
But the 2016 presidential election is still a bizarre work in progress, with many unexpected twists and turns ahead of it.
Turn a couple of dozen zealous reporters loose, with a lot of inside sources who know the candidates' dirty little secrets, and today's frontrunner could be tomorrow's loser.