During the first 2 months of the Republican presidential primary contest, the mainstream media consistently reported that Ron Paul had failed to secure a win in any state. While Paul had likely accumulated the majority of delegates in several caucus states, including Iowa, Maine, Nevada, Alaska, Minnesota and possibly several more, he had not placed first in the straw polls in any of those states.
Despite the fact that the straw poll is non-binding and ultimately has nothing to do with selecting the party’s nominee, the media consistently reported the straw poll winner as the winner of the state caucus. They even went so far as to project the delegates won by each candidate based upon that candidate’s percentage of the straw poll vote. This is misleading because the straw poll results have nothing to do with the allocation of delegates in most caucus states The delegate process is completely separate and takes place after the straw poll is over.
The media has not missed an opportunity to point out that Ron Paul has not won a state in this election cycle, although those listening carefully heard John King admit after the Arizona debate that Paul was in second place in terms of delegates. This was the result of several strong second place finishes and several wins – if one defines a win as securing the most delegates. However, the media recognizes the straw poll winner as the “winner” regardless of who actually gets the delegates.
That is, until Ron Paul wins a straw poll. Then the rules change.
Immediately after the Virgin Islands caucus, the Associated Press reported that Mitt Romney had won. However, there was something curious about this particular story. It reported the number of delegates won by each candidate, but did not even mention the results of the straw poll.
I’ll give you three guesses who won that poll (hint: it wasn’t Romney, Gingrich, or Santorum). Yes, as the Virgin Islands GOP website confirms, Ron Paul won the straw poll with 29% of the vote. Romney came in second with 26%, followed by 6% for Santorum and 5% for Gingrich.
Certainly, the Virgin Islands delegation is numerically insignificant in terms of the 2,286 delegates in play during the Republican primary process. However, so are the delegations from Iowa and New Hampshire. The importance of these wins is the momentum they give to the campaign and the effect they may have on voters in subsequent states
The media can’t have it both ways. They can’t report the straw poll winner as the caucus winner in states where Paul fails to win the straw poll but gets the majority of the delegates and then turn around and report the delegate winner as the caucus winner when Ron Paul wins the straw poll. Any reasonable person would scream bias at that.
However, the media may not be real problem here. With 10 primaries or caucuses being held on one day and several more within a few days before and after, the media has to rely heavily on what local/state GOP officials tell them about the results of these contests. If the media simply relayed in good faith what they were told by the Virgin Islands GOP, it raises the real question. Why was the Virgin Islands the first caucus that did not announce the candidate that finished first in the straw poll as the winner of the caucus?
Perhaps it was an honest mistake, but the honest mistakes that hurt Paul’s campaign are adding up. As I pointed out before the Washington caucus, the only vote-counting or election scandals during this primary season have occurred in states that Paul has been expected to have a good chance to win. As anticipated in that article, Washington joined that dubious list of states before the voting even started. Paul has taken the high road so far, explaining his lack of a win by saying that “changing one hundred years of history takes a little time.” However, after drawing thousands to rallies in one state after another while his opponents have only drawn hundreds, if that, even Paul is starting to get suspicious of the highly massaged caucus straw poll results.
Although his support has increased by orders of magnitude since 2008, Paul admits that the chances are slim that he can win the nomination. They are certainly no slimmer than Newt Gingrich’s chances at this point. However, no candidate could have any chance to win with his own party teaming up with the media to thwart any momentum he might generate.
If the United States had a vibrant political system in which many parties competed on a level playing field, one might say that Ron Paul should take the hint that he’s just not wanted as the Republican Party’s candidate. However, the playing field is not level. Both the Republican and Democratic Parties receive government subsidies and benefit from a labyrinthine set of rules that give them a virtual monopoly on the political process. Without fairly conducted primaries, no American citizen is truly guaranteed “a republican form of govenrment.”
If those lofty ideals don’t resonate with entrenched Republican Party leaders, then perhaps this will: Ron Paul’s supporters may not be a majority within the Republican Party, but you’ll need them to win in November. If they walk, you get four more years of Obama. Treat Paul’s campaign fairly and stop trying to give it extra adversity to overcome. Otherwise, you may be treated to another Obama inaugural address.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.