Ron Paul's Media Blackout Explained

There's a reason the Texas Congressman wasn't on the small screen this weekend

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By now, pretty much everyone agrees Ron Paul was ignored by the media following his second place finish in the Ames straw poll on Saturday. Whether or not the media blackout was justified due to his less-than-favorable campaign prospects is subject to debate. But the fact is the Texas Congressman lost to Michele Bachmann by nine-tenths of one-percentage point in the contest and was ignored by the Sunday talk shows (as Jon Stewart pointed out) and marginalized by the nation's top newspapers (as Politico's Keach Hagey pointed out). Why did the media ignore the GOP's peacenik, drug-legalizing libertarian? Here's what political observers are saying:

Paul is too iconoclastic  This is the preferred explanation by the Paul campaign. In an interview with Politico, Paul said he was not surprised by the media blackout. "It is hard for them to accept... They [the media] believe this guy is dangerous to the status quo,” he said, “but that is a reason to be more energized. I am a bit more challenging, but I am not on the wrong track. I don’t think that my ideas are more exotic. They are threatening.”

He was ignored because he didn't do anything surprising, writes Salon's Steve Kornacki:

The political world already knows that Paul has an army of unusually loyal and dedicated supporters who are willing to show up in large numbers at events like the straw poll and producing impressive-seeming vote totals for their candidate. They've been doing this for years now. Remember when Paul won the straw poll at the 2010 CPAC conference? Or in 2011? His supporters are very good at this kind of thing...

The key question about Paul's campaign is one that the straw poll was never going to help answer: Can he build on his sizable (but ultimately limited) base of core supporters and develop mass appeal within the Republican Party?

He has a Ralph Nader problem writes Politico's Roger Simon:

Unlike many of Paul’s supporters, I don’t believe there is a left-wing media conspiracy working against him. Ralph Nader, who is about as far as you can get from Paul politically, has the same problem whenever he runs for president.

And, no, media attention is not based solely on polls. The most recent polls, taken before Ames, showed Bachmann with 10.2 percent of the vote and Paul with 9.0 percent. That’s not a huge difference. Though those polls will no doubt change with all the publicity Bachmann is now getting because of her “stunning” victory at Ames.

Ron Paul's success doesn't fit the typical media narrative, writes Slate's David Weigel:

Pretend that political coverage is coverage of 10 high school football teams. Three teams have a chance to win it all; maybe one has a chance to get a perfect record for the year. There's another team that's pioneered a lot of the techniques that the other teams are using to win. (In the analogy, maybe decrying the Federal Reserve is the equivilent of the halfback option play.) This team is only set to win a few games, though. It will get less attention than the winning teams.

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