Is Ron Paul still being ignored by the mainstream media? Are traditional news outlets continuing to treat him like “the 13th floor in a hotel,” to use comedian Jon Stewart’s phrase? Is he the GOP candidate non grata, the Libertarian-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, the hole in the doughnut that is the Republican presidential field?
You’d think so if you skimmed a Pew poll released this week. According to Pew’s “Media Primary” survey, Representative Paul gets the least news coverage of any GOP White House hopeful. Since May, he’s been the subject of just 2 percent of campaign stories, says Pew – lagging just behind the powerhouse that is the Rick Santorum campaign.
If there’s any good news for Paul in these results, it’s that in recent months there is one other candidate who’s started to do even worse, in terms of getting attention from the "lamestreamers."
“From July on, Newt Gingrich received less coverage than Paul did,” the Pew report says.
But here’s our take: We think the Paul-is-being-ignored conclusion is off the mark.
First, we have some questions about Pew’s methodology. Newspapers aren’t dead, at least not yet, but the Pew news-coverage survey looks at only a couple of biggies and a local one or two. We’d guess that Paul’s coverage in regional papers is greater than shown in this poll. Perhaps our real complaint is this: We’re not on Pew’s survey list. And we’ve given Paul fairly constant coverage since Mr. Stewart complained about the lack thereof in August.
Second, Paul is actually winning in another measure of news coverage, as Pew itself notes.
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Of all GOP candidates, Paul gets the most positive coverage on blogs. Some 48 percent of conversation about him on the Internet tubes is positive, according to Pew’s analysis. Only 15 percent is negative, with 38 percent neutral. No other White House wannabe comes close in terms of good blog tone.
It’s true that Paul is only the fifth-most-discussed candidate on the Internet. But that’s where the core of his support – and his coverage – lies.
“In the ideology-driven blogosphere, a major wellspring of Paul’s support is the idea that he is the candidate least likely to shift his thinking to fit political realities,” Pew says.
You can see how dynamic Paul’s Web presence is by going to Google Trends and comparing how many people are searching the phrase “Ron Paul” compared with “Mitt Romney” or “Rick Perry” or any other GOP candidate.
Over the past 30 days, for instance, Paul has generated almost three times as many searches in the United States as has Romney. Texas Governor Perry generated more Web interest through early October, but that’s cratered and now stands below Paul’s average.
OK, Herman Cain does better than Paul. Over the past month, he’s about 30 percent ahead, by Google Trends measures. Maybe that will change now that Mr. Cain’s “9-9-9” tax plan is under attack from his rivals.
So if news is migrating to the Web, away from dead trees and even airwaves, than Paul actually has a media advantage. If not now, at least by 2016. Of course, next time around, the Paul running for president may have a different first name: “Rand.”