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Did Ron Paul's presidential bid just get a big boost from Jon Stewart?

Libertarian Ron Paul narrowly lost the Iowa straw poll to Michele Bachmann, yet has been cut out of media postmortems on the GOP's top tier. Does he deserve more coverage? Jon Stewart thinks so.

By Staff writer / August 16, 2011

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas speaks at the Republican Party's Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa, Saturday.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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When did Ron Paul become the GOP presidential candidate-who-must-not-be-named?

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"Daily Show" host Jon Stewart asked that question on his show Monday night and in doing so he sparked a discussion among the media hordes that has produced more than a few mea culpas and could perhaps – perhaps – lead to more coverage of the libertarian Texas congressmen in the future.

In particular, Mr. Stewart took aim at the fact that Mr. Paul narrowly lost the Ames, Iowa, straw poll to Michele Bachmann yet was almost entirely left out of the journalistic political postmortem.

He ran a hilarious montage of pundits proclaiming the new top tier was Representative Bachmann of Minnesota, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (who wasn’t even entered in the straw poll), and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (who made little effort there).

Yet Paul fell only 152 votes short of winning the poll.

“How did libertarian Ron Paul become the 13th floor in a hotel?” said Stewart.

It’s true that the Ames vote is hardly representative of even Iowa, much less the nation as a whole. But as Stewart added, “He’s the one guy in the field, agree with him or don’t agree with him, who doesn’t just regurgitate talking points or change what he believes to fit the audience in front of him.”

So why do the media ignore Ron Paul? And please, if you’re a Paulite, please read this whole thing before you take down our e-mail with angry missives.

They ignore him because he has little chance of winning or expanding his base beyond the relatively small number of Americans who agree with him that relinking the dollar to gold would be a good thing.

Right now an average of national polls puts Paul at about 8.7 percent, notes New York Times polling expert Nate Silver in his FiveThirtyEight blog.

"Paul might be able to get upwards of 25 percent of the vote in next year’s Iowa caucus, but I wonder how much upside his candidacy has beyond his very dedicated core of supporters,” writes Mr. Silver.

But here’s the media’s little secret: viability isn’t really as important a coverage criteria as reporters pretend. If it was, nobody would ever have written two sentences about the presidential stylings of Donald Trump. (Who, you may remember, dissed Ron Paul’s chances earlier this year in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.)

No, the media are after what is termed a “good story.” And that’s kind of a circular criteria, in the sense that the media rule what a good story is. Thus Jon Huntsman continues to get fairly positive coverage, despite the fact that he got 69 votes at the Iowa caucus and barely breaks 2 percent in national polls.

We’ll say it here: Ron Paul deserves at least as much ink (or as many pixels) as Jon Huntsman.

This whole affair has produced at least some coverage that sounds a bit like an apology, or urges reporters to take Paul more seriously in the future.

We’re also betting that it leads soon to a Ron Paul "Daily Show" appearance. By our count, he’s already been on at least three times in recent years.

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