UPDATE 8/30/11: Again!
Jon Stewart made waves last week by suggesting that the mainstream media is purposely ignoring presidential candidate and Texas congressman Ron Paul. The Huffington Post‘s Asher Smith says that isn’t true. And Mr. Smith is right.
The primary ammunition used to push this concept by those who share Jon Stewart’s opinion–like Politico blogger Roger Simon–is the fact that Rep. Paul finished second in the Ames straw poll on Saturday, and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann only beat him by nine tenths of one percent, or 152 votes out of 16,892 cast. The part that gets (conveniently) left out is that not only is the Ames straw poll historically almost meaningless, but the two frontrunners in overall polling–former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and Texas Governor Rick Perry–essentially skipped it. Mr. Smith points out that the press is usually guilty of applying most time and energy to the political personality who shouts the loudest, not necessarily the one who has the highest chance of winning or of putting effective policy in place. He blames the media for the sudden prominence of Rep. Bachmann, who has incredibly fringe views and stands very little chance of pulling Independent voters in a general election, and calls her a “vanity candidate,” stating that the mainstream media should not have lent her any legitimacy. He’s right as rain on that one.
“The media should be applauded for the collective observation that success the Ames Straw Poll [sic] is not an indicator of broad-based support,” says Asher Smith. He also points out that the event is small enough to be held inside the Iowa State University basketball arena. In 2007, Mitt Romney won the straw poll and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee later won the Iowa caucus; the straw poll failed to predict the winner of the state of Iowa, let alone the GOP nominee. It’s also silly not to mention that Rep. Paul’s overall polling is not even close to stellar. Mr. Smith details why the Ames straw poll is almost perfectly tailored to Rep. Ron Paul’s strengths, and that the campaign funded $20 of the $30 it cost attendees to purchase a ticket and a vote–and adds that a first or second place finish for him was a foregone conclusion. Rep. Ron Paul reaped much from the straw poll because he invested much in the straw poll, but there’s a reason why Romney and Perry didn’t bother.
Mr. Smith rightfully laments that media resources wasted on a candidate with so little chance of claiming the nomination are resources not devoted to holding more promising candidates’ feet to the fire. Shades of Sarah Palin’s nonsensical “One Nation” bus tour in May and June, and the established journalists that followed her around the country like lost puppies when other people were actually submitting their paperwork to run and getting nary a mention.
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