WASHINGTON, August 16, 2011–On Sunday, the day after the Ames Iowa straw poll, Tim Pawlenty became the first candidate to drop out of the presidential race. But that couldn’t be correct, could it? Is this the same Tim Pawlenty who was labeled a “top tier” candidate by the media for months? How could he be the first to drop out of the race if his prospects were so high?
In all honesty, no serious person who paid attention to the race for the Republican nomination would have considered Pawlenty to be a credible candidate. Then again, these are the same people who propped up Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson as serious candidates last election cycle.
Pawlenty was portrayed as the mainstream alternative to those who were unsatisfied with Mitt Romney and his questionable record as a conservative. He was seen as a candidate who was “strong” on national defense and social issues, and “above average” when it came to economic policy. Yet, no matter how hard Pawlenty tried, he never polled much above double digits in Iowa and was unable to convince straw poll voters that he was the right man for the job.
Tim Pawlenty is just one example of many candidates who have been undeservedly anointed as “top tier” candidates. After the Ames straw poll results were announced, Chris Wallace mentioned the three “top tier” candidates; Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Michelle Bachman. This is understandable due to their popularity, but then Wallace went on to mention that Rick Santorum would be another candidate to watch because of how he did in the straw poll. This is the same Rick Santorum who moved his entire family to Iowa in order for them to campaign for him, and he placed fourth in the straw poll with less than half of the votes that Ron Paul received, who finished in a close second place behind Bachman.
Ron Paul has received almost no attention since his near victory in Iowa on Saturday. This isn’t anything new, but it does not excuse the attention given to candidates who have done mediocre in most national polls such as Pawlenty, Cain, Santorum and Gingrich. Dr. Paul regularly polls above all of the individuals. While it has been said that Ron Paul supporters are better at propelling the Texas Congressman to victory in straw polls, he has also received more support in national polls too, such as Gallup.
The media really seems to believe that Ron Paul is not a viable Presidential candidate. It stands to reason then that his near victory in Iowa would be big news, and yet, barely anyone gave it a second thought. If Jon Huntsman Jr. had won the Ames Iowa poll, news stands would be blowing up everywhere talking about how surprising and unlikely the results were. Yet, when Ron Paul almost wins it, the media and the establishment remain silent on the issue. This seems like very strange behavior towards a “non-viable” candidate.
One of the few high profile voices to notice this disparity between coverage and popularity has been none other than Jon Stewart. While poking fun at the rest of the media and getting some good laughs, Stewart actually made some good points about how unfair and biased they’ve been to Dr. Paul. It’s quite unfortunate that it takes a political comedian to point out what so many others have missed about this election cycle.
While Ron Paul remains poisonous to most of the media, many less credible and less popular candidates continue to get national attention. A few pundits even named Jon Huntsman as a credible candidate who could possibly take the nomination. Setting aside the fact that most people don’t even know who Huntsman is, this was a man who received 69 votes at the Iowa straw poll, or less than one half of one percent of the vote. It doesn’t seem possible, but the absurdity looks like it will only get worse as time goes on.
It’s too soon to have a good idea of who will be the Republican nominee, but one thing that’s for sure is that political pundits everywhere will continue to push for certain candidates whether they can win or not. Whether or not a candidate is credible doesn’t seem to factor into their thought process. Tim Pawlenty is just the first casualty of the race for President, but his example provides a very compelling case that the media enjoys picking our candidates for us.
Conor Murphy is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in political science. As a former radio talk show host on WVCW, Conor hosted two popular shows, Murphy’s Law and Son of the Revolution. You can read more of his columns in The Political Pro-Con at The Washington Times Communities.
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