COMMENTARY | It wasn’t too long ago that libertarian Texas Congressman Ron Paul was being ignored by CNN and Fox News — let’s face it, Jon Stewart pointed out how little attention the legislator was receiving from most of the major media outlets — as he fought to be heard above the sound bites of Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas governor Rick Perry, and undeclared media magnet Sarah Palin. But all that changed when national attention focused on the fact that national attention had not been focused anywhere near the campaign of the just-turned 76-year-old legislator. And not even two weeks later, a Rasmussen Reports poll indicates that it is he, not newcomer Perry, or firebrand Bachmann, or even the stoic and steady Mitt Romney, that stands the best chance of defeating President Obama in the national election.
It is amazing the effect a little attention can cause…
According to the survey, not one of the Republican contenders for the GOP nomination at present has the numbers to beat the incumbent president. Congressman Paul, however, is the closest, trailing only 39 percent to 38 percent, and is positioned well within the margin of error of the survey (which is +/-3 percent). Even Perry, who leads in the national polls by double digits over his GOP colleagues, falls short of Obama by three percent (40 percent to Obama’s 43 percent).
Other candidates are within striking distance of an victory over Obama as well. Tea party leader Michele Bachmann polls just behind Perry with a 43 percent to 39 percent loss to the president. Former Massachusetts governor and previous national poll leader (for nearly three months) Mitt Romney fares the worst among the GOP frontrunners, although he remains fairly close (38 percent to Obama’s 46 percent).
Paul seems to have gotten a Jon Stewart bump, so to speak. But is that all that may have precipitated his rise in the estimation of Republican voters, a little media attention? Perhaps the increasing dictatorial proclamations of Minnesota Congressman Bachmann — she promises to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, drop gas prices to $2, and most recently threatened to disband the National Labor Relations Board — have purchase Paul increased credibility among the GOP contenders. He might have gotten an extra boost from the increasing negative press being meted out to Perry as he has taken a brazenly anti-intellectual stance to governance. And perhaps the Congressman has been helped along by Romney’s seeming inability to stir up enthusiasm among Republicans.
And there is the possibility that all the media attention afforded the Texas lawmaker may have driven Republicans to take his candidacy seriously and become informed on Paul’s policy positions, voting record, and vision. A no-nonsense fiscal conservative, Paul was a proponent of tea party tenets long before the likes of Bachmann and Palin attached themselves to the movement. He has long been an adversary to wasteful spending policies and has stood firmly against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Whatever the reason, Paul, who just two weeks ago could not even get his name mentioned as a frontrunner even after placed 152 votes out of first place in the much touted Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, has become a major political player and presidential contender in the race for the 2012 Republican nomination. And if one were to think the Rasmussen Reports survey a canvassing fluke, it should be pointed out that Congressman Paul polled just two points short of President Obama in a recent Gallup Poll as well.