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{Published in the Colorado Springs Gazette, 11-15-07}

Last Monday was a watershed in American politics. Republican Congressman Ron Paul raised over $4 million in a single day, shattering John Kerry’s 2004 record for a presidential candidate in the primary elections.

Was this news to you? Can’t say I’m surprised. The response from the print media has been, well, underwhelming.

Some of that can probably be explained by cultural differences between print and online media. Ron Paul is the most consistently pro-freedom, pro-responsibility of the presidential candidates of either party, and that resonates very well with the online crowd. That’s why Ron Paul consistently outpolls other candidates on facebook, myspace, youtube, and just about every other big internet site you can think of.

Most of his donations are collected online. Because Dr. Paul is a man of principle, he updates his fundraising status on his web site, rather than timing fundraising reports for maximum political leverage.

This is the sort of behavior that print media (present company excluded) have trouble getting a handle on.

But cultural differences can’t completely explain asymmetry in media coverage. Paul has such strong mainstream credentials, he should be getting plenty of play in print. After all, who won the Conservative Leadership Conference straw poll? Ron Paul.

Who is the only member of Congress to never vote for an unbalanced budget? Ron Paul.

Who’s book on foreign policy was an amazon.com top 100 bestseller? Ron Paul.

Who was one of only four Republican congressmen to endorse Ronald Reagan in 1976, when everybody else went for Gerald Ford? Ron Paul.

Who is the Republican candidate with the most distinguished record of military service? All right, I’ll concede that’s John McCain. But Dr. Paul is easily #2; he was an Air Force flight surgeon as both an active duty officer and later in the reserves. In fact, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and ABC News, Ron Paul has received more donations from active duty military than any other Republican candidate, McCain included.

So if Congressman Paul is so mainstream, and he’s setting records right and left, why is he having trouble getting media play? Two reasons.

First, Ron Paul has principles. Most journalists are pragmatic liberals, so in principle they don’t think much of principles. A principled Republican who doesn’t promote morality through legislation doesn’t register on their radar screen.

Second, there are the poll numbers. Unless you’re a front runner, the media doesn’t want to cover you.

This makes some economic sense, newspaper space is a scarce resource. Of course, one of the ways you become a front runner is to get media coverage, so it’s [a] chicken-and-egg problem.

But the real reason why front runners tend to stay front runners is voter behavior. When it comes to a front runner, you look for reasons to show support. When it comes to an underdog, you look for reasons not to. After all, it’s kind of, well, embarrassing to tell someone you support a candidate who isn’t currently leading in the polls. It’s like telling someone you’ve got money on the horse that’s not leading the pack. Why would anybody want to hear that?

That’s the real problem. People don’t respond to candidates based on their positions. People respond to candidates they think will win, because they want to tell their friends and neighbors they voted for a winner. This is really weird, since anyone’s vote has essentially zero chance of affecting the outcome.

Then again, who said politics was rational?

Please, people, vote the issues. Google “Ron Paul”, visit his web site, check out all his positions. If you see one where you think he’s completely wrong, don’t stop there. Keep going, and keep a tally. Do this for all the candidates.
If, when you’re all done, no one scores higher than Congressman Paul, then darn it he’s your guy and you should support him, frontrunner or no. Send him money, put a sign in your yard, argue with your book club over coffee, but do something.

Don’t support the usual suspects doing business as usual just because they’re ahead in the usual polls.

Congressman Paul represents the only principled voice for freedom and responsibility in presidential politics today. It would be a terrible shame if that voice went unheard because people paid attention to his vision but ignored their conscience.