Ron Paul, Media Framing Victim?

So, the big news coming out of Iowa over the weekend was a new poll that puts Newt Gingrich as the frontrunner in the GOP nomination race for the caucuses, which will be held January 3rd, with Mitt Romney dropping to third place.  A key element to this story is Romney’s “slide” into third place.  What doesn’t seem to be discussed: the surge of iconoclastic GOP candidate Ron Paul in the face of declines by Herman Cain and Rick Perry.

My friend Eric Ostermeier at Smart Politics provides another insightful media content analysis that reveals a key part of Paul’s inability to capitalize on this good fortune. Check this out… if I were Paul’s camp, I’d be furious:

A Smart Politics content analysis of nearly two-dozen reports written on the Des Moines Register poll by prominent national news outlets finds that coverage of the poll’s second place finisher Ron Paul accounted for just 5 percent of these articles – about one-quarter the attention received by Mitt Romney (20.1 percent) and the same as bottom-tier candidates Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry.

The Denizens have observed the impacts of media framing before. Here seems to be a clear case in which the prevailing media narrative — Ron Paul is a candidate who cannot win the GOP nomination, and therefore is a distraction rather than genuinely newsworthy — has the potential to impact the shape of the race. Smart Politics has already observed how the marginal media status of candidates like Paul, John Huntsman and Rick Santorum have led to them having comparatively far less time to comment in campaign debates and, indeed, being physically marginalized to the outskirts of the stage.

The chicken-egg implications are clear: The “marginal candidates” have an unrealistic shot at the nomination because Republicans don’t see them that way. But how Republican voters see them has much to do with how the media frame them. If Paul, Huntsman or Santorum were given the same media attention as Herman Cain, for instance, who’s to say that the campaign dynamics wouldn’t shift?

The argument (which comes into play especially when the media stage debates) is that candidate viability is determined by poll results. Ron Paul is now in second place in Iowa, down by seven points — just one point more than the six points Romney slid down since the last Iowa poll. We’ll see if the media gives Paul his due (as they did whenever an otherwise marginal candidate has surged in Iowa, like Michele Bachmann after the Ames straw poll), or if the simpler, entrenched “Paul isn’t a factor” story-by-omission prevails.

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