From the Department of “Huh…”: Ron Paul Edition

It’s always slim-pickings most Sunday afternoons when it comes to news, and doubly so when it happens to be Christmas. However, I did pick up on this National Journal piece examining Ron Paul’s media coverage in the Republican primary so far.

Sarah Mimms explains:

There’s nothing that Rep. Ron Paul‘s legions of fans hate more than what they see as the media’s constant oversight of their hero. The Texan’s campaign has raised millions of dollars to combat the alleged media conspiracy that, they claim, is out to destroy the candidate the media fears most.

There is just one problem: The Ron Paul revolution is being televised.

Since announcing his campaign on May 13, Paul has made 87 appearances on cable television and Sunday news programs. That’s more than any other candidate currently running for president, according to an analysis of transcripts and data provided by CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, and CBS, as well as Media Matters’ “Fox Primary” project.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., comes in second place, with 80 appearances, while former Sen. Rick Santorum has clocked 75 and former Speaker Newt Gingrich has showed up 65 times.

More significantly, with the exception of Herman Cain, who ended his presidential campaign in November, Paul is winning the Fox News primary. He has appeared on Fox News 63 times since June 1, more than any of his primary rivals. He is followed closely by Gingrich and Santorum – both of whom were paid contributors to the network before announcing their candidacies – and Bachmann. […]

If you’ve ever had the misfortune to run into the Internet troll version of Ron Paul supporters, you routinely see this sentiment. Paul is purposely being ignored by the media, it’s a conspiracy, yada yada yada. I do try not to make light of voter concerns with their preferred candidate, but this narrative in particular has more nuance than they would lead you to believe.

Yes, Ron Paul does on average get fewer questions at debates, something Mimms recognizes in her article, but that happenstance isn’t exclusive to Paul. Nearly every candidate that has participated in these debates has drawn the short stick on questions and air time. And if you want to pity someone for truly being shut out of the media coverage, try Gary Johnson or Buddy Roemer. I don’t mean to delegitimize the sometimes underserved lack of independent mainstream media coverage, as Mimms notes:

We crunched our own numbers based on transcripts and data provided by the other networks, spanning the period from the date each candidate announced his or her campaign through December 11.

Paul’s fans aren’t wrong to criticize the media for its coverage of his campaign. Paul is mentioned on air far less frequently than most of his rivals, including Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, both of whom trail him in national and state-level polls. And when pundits talk about him, they frequently do so in a far more negative tone.

Yet it’s also true that the media likes to stick with conventional wisdom. A Republican Party nominating Ron Paul is not conventional wisdom. Nate Silver builds the numbers :

The major constraint Mr. Paul faces is that his base of support, while enthusiastic, is quite narrow, with his preferences diverging from many Republican voters’ on foreign policy and on social policy. This shows up clearly in the polling data, which tells a consistent story. Mr. Paul is going to have trouble securing more than about one-third of Republican votes even in the best-case scenario for his campaign:

  • In last week’s CNN poll, only 39 percent of Republicans said they would consider Mr. Paul’s candidacy.
  • In last week’s Washington Post / ABC News poll, only 37 percent of Republicans said Mr. Paul “has the kind of personality and temperament it takes to serve effectively as president.”
  • According to a Gallup poll conducted earlier this month, just 34 percent of Republican voters consider Mr. Paul to be an “acceptable” nominee.
  • In last week’s Public Policy Polling survey, Mr. Paul’s favorability rating among Republican voters was 34 percent.
  • In this month’s Pew poll, only 33 percent of Republican voters said they would consider voting for Mr. Paul.

Which, as Silver notes, could possibly leave Ron Paul as something of a delegate broker at the Republican convention and is something the campaign aims towards. Of course this doesn’t even touch upon the bulldozing web presence that the Paul campaign has carefully steered since the ’08 primary season, and this time around is still far and away more impactful than any other Republican candidate.

So this grassroots political narrative of Ron Paul being kept down by the “man” doesn’t exactly stand under closer scrutiny, and will be come even less true if his popularity holds in Iowa. But most political narrative’s do not, and in that regard the Paul Revolution is no different than the rest.


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