Ron Paul Is Not a ‘Serious’ Candidate–Unlike Donald Trump

The first role of the corporate press in an election cycle is to weed out candidates who they deem nonviable. This usually means choosing not to cover candidates whose ideas that fall outside the Beltway conventional wisdom (e.g., Dennis Kucinich), or those who reporters decide have no real chance of winning the nomination.

The speculation that reality TV star/mogulDonald Trump might run in 2012 flips the narrative around–and demonstrates the fact that the media can change the “rules” whenever they want. Trump is extremely unlikely to actually run, and his “ideas” mostly revolve around a long-debunked conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born where he was born. So by any normal standard he would get no coverage. But he’s perhaps the dominant feature of the early campaign coverage, making a string of television appearances that a supposedly marginal candidate would never enjoy.

What gives? Some reporters have tried to find ways to explain why this is so, or at least justify the attention. Take Dan Balz in the Washington Post (4/24/11):

The New York businessman has grabbed headlines with his provocative remarks on President Obama’s birthplace. He continues to question whether the president was born in Hawaii, despite ample evidence that he was. But what he has had to say about real issues deserves as much attention as his “birther” comments.

I wish he were saying that since Trump’s birtherism deserves no coverage, his thoughts about “real issues” deserve the same.

But Balz seems to be arguing that since Trump’s nutty conspiracy-mongering makes news, his other ideas deserve to make news too. All this coming from a guy no one seems to think has any intention of actually mounting a serious campaign. This is an extremely odd justification, at odds with the normal rules of Beltway journalism.

Amidst this backdrop, Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas will apparently announce his intention today to run in 2012. He was a candidate in 2008 that media mostly left out of their campaign coverage, despite the fact that he had a core of dedicated volunteers and an impressive ability to raise money (one of the things that media normally treat as very important).

Ron Paul is, in other words, was an actual candidate, and is likely to be one again. But will he enjoy even a tiny fraction of the coverage given to Donald Trump? Don’t bet on it.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.