I’ve got a number of friends on Facebook today who have jumped on the question of “why is [insert media outlet name here] ignoring Ron Paul in their Iowa Straw Poll coverage when he took second?” It seems that there are a number of people who, if not being Ron Paul supporters, are at least giving Ron Paul a look (and seeing the tone of his media coverage as something sinister) after his performance in the latest debate.

Looking at his positions over at On The Issues, there are some things I can appreciably get behind. Of course, there are also things that it’s hard to get behind as well, at least for a number of people. Still, I suspect that for a number of the positions he takes, Ron Paul at least carries the same positions as some of the other groups – Tea Partiers, Republicans, Democrats and his actual home party, Libertarians.

Why, then, would media outlets not want to bother covering him? Well, for one, a Straw Poll is completely nonscientific. It’s not a ballot-box primary. It’s not even a caucus. It’s a matter of figuring out how to bus your supporters in, drive them in, or convince them to show up and either pay their $30 ticket or convince them to pay for it themselves. According to the indicated figures, there were ~4000 people who took tickets provided by the Bachmann camp and voted for somebody else. I’m willing to bet a good number of them went over to the Ron Paul camp.

Second, Ron Paul’s supporters have a reputation for being a little… ahem… cuckoo. As in, they have a history of hijacking straw polls and unscientific, uncontrolled online polls and making a mockery of them, even using hijacked computers to spam online polls. In many ways, the Ron Paul supporters remind me of the Lyndon LaRouche supporters who used to pop up in various places on the SoTech campus trying to sell buttons, coffee mugs, reading material, and above all else, entry into the Cult of LaRouche. In 2004 and 2008, LaRouche supporters heckled the Democrat party debates before being escorted out of the auditorium; in the last debate, the Fox “chatroom” for the online stream was so spammed by Ron Paul supporters that no other discussion other than “why isn’t every question directed at Ron Paul” could be had.

The sum total of this is that I don’t really think the media are giving Ron Paul a disservice or failing in their duty by not giving him wall-to-wall coverage. Ron Paul’s been in the position of “winning straw polls, never gaining real traction” before. His supporters are highly motivated, more than enough to spam and tip straw polls and unscientific online polling. At the same time, they aren’t very numerous, and we eventually have to look at what they are selling – Ron Paul.

Here’s where it all falls apart. Ron Paul, while sincere, is sincere in the same manner that makes people look at the Lyndon LaRouche crowd, or the Al Sharpton crowd, or the Tea Party, or any other fringe movement and say “wow, there goes a nutcase.” He’s almost an octegenarian, but he can go into incredibly manic periods during interviews. He may make some good points, but he has a habit of making them in the worst possible way – that “blowback principle” audioclip, where his voice went squeaky/creepy, was on talk radio stations for months afterwards.

At the end of the day, they’re selling “Crazy Uncle Ron in the Tinfoil Hat.” And few people are buying, media coverage or not.

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9 Responses to Dissecting Ron Paul

  1. Mike Hunt says:

    The man named his son after Ayn Rand.

    there were ~4000 people who took tickets provided by the Bachmann camp and voted for somebody else.

    That’s a lot of BS. Whatever happened to Money Talks?

    Anyway his ideas make a lot of sense. But he lacks gravitas. And his fingers smell like tuna. So he could never win.

  2. trumwill says:

    I was all prepared to agree with you here, right up until I remembered that my favored candidate has gotten zero publicity despite a biography warranting it. So I feel their pain. Though, to be sure, Paul has been around the block and people seem to at least know who he is. There are more Ron Paul for President signs in this state than for anybody else but Obama. My theory is that Arapaho (like much of the rural mountain west) likes them ornery.

    More seriously, Ron Paul could be pivotal in the Ralph Nader sense in the next election if he runs (again) third-party. Since he’s retiring from congress after this term, I consider it possible. It could make things difficult for his son (who is not actually named after Ayn Rand), though. That, and the failure of his previous attempt, is about the only thing I can think of to hold him back.

    (Incidentally, he actually was on the ballot in 2008 in Montana, almost giving the state to Obama.)

  3. web says:


    I’m presuming your “favored candidate” is Huntsman. Honestly, for what I can say regarding him, I think Jon Stewart’s said it better recently: he went to Iowa and took a distant, distant second to Romney even though Romney didn’t even put up a tent in Iowa, and in terms of policies, he’s essentially a Romney-Clone.

    If you have time, look up Stewart’s segment on “Republican Doppelgangers.” He actually makes a pretty good point regarding the Republican candidate field.

  4. Mike Hunt says:

    Trumwill: [Rand Paul] is not actually named after Ayn Rand

    Sorry, I don’t buy it. I know his first name is Randal. But they are too close for comfort. It would just be too creepy if the family admitted it.

  5. trumwill says:

    I like Huntsman okay, but he has gotten more coverage than he deserves, all things considered.

    Gary Johnson. It’s mostly protest support. Though I recognize he never had any chance of winning the nomination, anyone who has been a governor or a senator should get at least some attention. Especially in an article about Republican governors running for president:

    Rick Perry’s entrance to the presidential field means a fourth sitting or former governor has entered the field..

    Fifth, people. Fifth.

    I have to say, I found this Jon Stewart sketch to be rather on-point. Not lending much credence to the straw poll is one thing, but the sheer avoiding mentioning of his standing in traditional polls… I can understand some irritation with that.

  6. web says:

    It may be a chicken-and-egg thing, but in the crowded field, Johnson doesn’t even get Ron Paul-level polling numbers. I can see why you’d like him for his positions, though, as he matches you a lot better than most of the Tea Party crowd do and he doesn’t have the “crazy uncle Ron” vibe that Ron Paul gives off.

    Barring a crazy shakeup or plane crash scenario, however, it’s pretty clear that this election season is going to either be a “Romney’s turn” in the same way 2008 was “McCain’s turn”, or else you’re going to see someone nominated by the Tea Partiers who manages to lose by a metric butt-whooping in the general.

  7. Mike Hunt says:

    I never heard of Gary Johnson. For someone to be that unknown at this stage of the game doesn’t bode well for him. This isn’t 1976; Jimmy Carter isn’t coming out of the peanut farm to clinch the nomination.

    I don’t have a horse in the race, but I like Thaddeus McCotter, not that he has a chance.

    In 2000 I was looking forward to voting for favorite son Bill Bradley, but he dropped out well before I got the opportunity. It left Al Gore and LaRouche on the ballot. Since you can’t write-in in a presidential primary, I just left it blank.

    Since NJ has moved its date back to June 5, it could be a major player for the first time since 1984.

  8. trumwill says:

    Web, there is an element of chicken-and-egg to it, which is why I think debates (for instance) really ought to look at biography in addition to polling numbers. If you are or have been the governor of one of our fifty states, I think that you should be in at least the early debates (my model, start wide and then narrow the field as you go along).

    Governors yes, senators most likely yes, house members maybe.

    And really, there’s no excuse for an article about Republican governors to mention only three of the four. Regardless of polling. Even if one of the governors has only been a year and only got there because the person before him died. With a 2-term governor, there really should be no question.

    That’s my view, anyway.

  9. trumwill says:

    Mike, I’m only barely aware of McCotter. I realize that Johnson has no chance. Given that he wants to decriminalize drugs, I don’t think he ever did. I would wager, though, his chances of winning the nomination are precisely the same as Ron Paul’s and Herman Cain’s. Zero covers a lot of ground, as far as these things go…

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