It's Sunday morning, the day after the closely-watched Ames, Iowa Presidential Straw Poll. On MSNBC's Meet The Press, panelist Chuck Todd opines:
"We have a top tier. It is Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann." He adds that some other candidates had a good showing in the straw poll and that Ron Paul proved that he could "be a nuisance to the field."
On CBS's Sunday morning show, Face The Nation, political analyst John Dickerson declares: "We have a new top tier and it's Perry, Mitt Romney, and Bachmann." He goes on to say the real question is which Republican contender can best communicate Tea Party values and actually win in a general election against President Obama.
On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace says: "There's now a top tier in this race, at least for now, of Romney, Perry, and Bachmann." Though just to be sure not to leave anyone out who deserved honorable mention, Wallace quickly added: "and you know we haven't mentioned, and we should, Rick Santorum who did really surprisingly well."
With commentary like that from the mainstream press, a viewer might be tempted to think that first, second, and third place went to Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, and Rick Perry, and that Rick Santorum and Ron Paul might have finished a close fourth and a solid fifth in the historic poll one day before. But that's not what happened. Michele Bachmann did finish in first place with 4823 votes, but placing a very close second and statistically tying Bachmann for first with 4671 votes, was Ron Paul, who Chuck Todd dismissed as a mere "nuisance" despite conferring top tier status to Bachmann for her strong finish.
How did the other candidates perform?
Rick Perry, who hasn't been in any of the three nationally-televised debates and only announced his candidacy the day of the Iowa straw poll, finished in sixth place with 718 write-in votes. Mitt Romney placed seventh with 567 votes. Neither actually bothered to show up for or compete in the straw poll. It is perfectly understandable to include Mitt Romney and Rick Perry in the top tier despite their absence at the recent straw poll because of their strong showing in scientific national and state polls for the 2012 Republican nomination.
But to add Michele Bachmann as a frontrunner because of her big win at the Iowa straw poll while omitting Ron Paul, who statistically tied her for first at Ames and who statistically ties her for third in national polls, should raise questions about the commentators' objectivity.
As a media analyst for The Politico reported late Monday:
"Ron Paul finished just 152 votes behind Michele Bachmann in the Ames Straw Poll, but from the headlines and TV news coverage, it’s hard to tell he even showed up.
With the exception of The New York Times and The Des Moines Register, most major newspaper headlines didn’t even mention his name in their reports of Saturday’s contest. Nor was he anywhere to be found on the Sunday morning talk shows.
By Monday’s second-day stories, Paul had disappeared from the prevailing narrative of the Republican primary race altogether, as consensus coalesced around the dynamics between Bachmann, newcomer Rick Perry and front-runner Mitt Romney."
What possible reason could the mainstream media have for such a glaring omission of Ron Paul from its commentary and analysis? Especially when his strong polling is also considered in light of his remarkably consistent voting record as a U.S. congressman and his prescient warnings about the credit bubble, the housing market, the national debt, and the wars overseas.
John Dickerson argues that the Republican Party is looking for a candidate that can best communicate the Tea Party's values and go on to defeat President Obama in the general election. In addition to being called the "godfather" of the Tea Party movement by multiple mainstream journalists-- including Chris Wallace, who omitted Paul from his top tier list Sunday-- Ron Paul was recently called "Tea Party patient zero," by comedian Jon Stewart.
In a Daily Show segment about the media's unfair coverage of Ron Paul after the Ames Straw Poll, Jon Stewart remarked of him:
"He is Tea Party patient zero. All that small government grassroots business-- he planted that grass. These other folks-- they're just Moral Majorities in a tri-cornered hat. Ron Paul's the real deal and Fox News should love this guy!"
Now Fox News, CBS, MSNBC, and every other mainstream source of news have no obligation at all to "love" Ron Paul as Stewart suggests, nor to agree with his political positions. But they do have a certain obligation to report and analyze the news with some level of objectivity. With Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul-- both strong voices in the Tea Party-- statistically tied on a national level and in the recent Ames Iowa Straw Poll, there's no substantive reason for media analysts to hail one as a "top tier" contender and deride the other as a nuisance.
2011 Straw Poll Full Results (Votes, %)
1. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (4823, 28.55%)
2. Congressman Ron Paul (4671, 27.65%)
3. Governor Tim Pawlenty (2293, 13.57%)
4. Senator Rick Santorum (1657, 9.81%)
5. Herman Cain(1456, 8.62%)
6. Governor Rick Perry (718, 3.62%) write-in
7. Governor Mitt Romney (567, 3.36%)
8. Speaker Newt Gingrich (385, 2.28%)
9. Governor Jon Huntsman (69, 0.41%)
10. Congressman Thad McCotter (35, 0.21%)