Ron Paul’s 15 Minutes Are Up

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Is the media correct to mostly ignore Ron Paul? I say yes, and Will Wilkinson notes that several other folks agree:

They speak with one voice: Mr Paul is a marginal candidate with a proven base of highly-motivated supporters who turn out in droves for mock-electoral trifles, but he lacks the the broader base of support necessary to qualify as a contender worth covering.

Though I think there’s something to this line of thought, I also think there’s something insidiously circular about it. Perhaps the best way to grasp this complaint is to compare Mr Paul’s coverage to Ms Bachmann’s. Both serve in the House of Representatives, though Mr Paul’s record of service is decades longer. Both are significant figures within the populist tea-party movement. Real Clear Politics’s average of recent national polls puts Ms Bachmann and Mr Paul at 9.6% and 8.8% of the Republican vote, respectively. Of course, poll results aren’t independent of press coverage. Ms Bachmann, for reasons known only to the gods, has been lavished with media attention, even before dipping a toe in the presidential water. Yet she remains at least as unviable a candidate as Mr Paul is said to be.

But Will — along with Jon Stewart and all the others who think the media is being unfair toward Ron Paul — is missing the single biggest difference between Paul and Bachmann: Paul has already run before. We don’t have to guess about Ron Paul’s appeal: we know exactly what it is, where it comes from, and how big it is. What’s more, we also know whether it’s changed since 2008, and unless I’m missing something, it hasn’t. At all. He’s basically got the same group of fervent followers he’s always had, and nothing more.

It’s not unusual for someone who ran and came close to run again (cf. Ronald Reagan, John McCain, Mitt Romney). But if you run a very distant fourth, winning no states and collecting 1.6% of the delegates, you really need to have a compelling story if you decide to run again. Ron Paul doesn’t, and everyone knows it. Like it or not, he’s a novelty candidate and he’s had his 15 minutes. It’s time to move on.

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