Ron Paul’s message hasn’t changed in the past four years. But his style of his message has — dramatically.
The most obvious example of that shift is his TV ads and Web videos, which are among the most professional and polished this cycle, and are helping propel Paul from a middle of the pack candidate to a top-tier contender in the all-important Iowa caucuses.
“Ron Paul has run excellent ads at a very heavy rotation in Iowa,” observes Tim Albrecht, communications director for Iowa governor Terry Branstad and Mitt Romney’s Iowa communications director last cycle. “Those ads, combined with the candidate’s visit to the state, have made a significant difference, and it’s reflected in the polling.”
The Paul campaign has been on air in Iowa and New Hampshire since September, and the game plan is to stay on air in both states in these crucial last weeks. “The Paul campaign made an early strategic decision to go up on the air early in the cycle because we felt like it would give us an opportunity to define Ron Paul,” says Trygve Olson, a senior adviser to Paul. “Ron Paul is a defined figure, but . . . we’ve shown some additional facets of Ron to a wider audience, and . . . being [on the air] early has been helpful to our campaign.”
Not only has the campaign been on air longer than those of Paul’s GOP rivals, but Paul has also spent more on TV ads than any other contender except for Rick Perry, according to a NBC News analysis yesterday. According to the numbers, the investment is paying off. Paul has gone from polling around 10 percent at the beginning of September in New Hampshire to 14 percent now, according to Real Clear Politics average. In Iowa, he has jumped five points in the same time span, going from 12 percent to 17 percent. “That’s been a combination of our mail, our grassroots, our phones,” campaign chairman Jesse Benton says of Paul’s Iowa surge, “but TV has been an essential part of that.”
To Paul aides, TV ads offer an invaluable opportunity to reshape the way Paul is viewed. Painted last cycle as a candidate out of touch with most Republican voters, Paul needs the ads as a way to get voters who didn’t consider themselves Paul fans in 2008 to consider looking at his candidacy. “Having such high-quality TV helps us cut through and speak directly to voters,” Benton remarks.
The ads are also viewed as necessary because of the limited media coverage Paul receives. “Ron is not covered in the news like a Mitt Romney,” observes Benton. Backing up that assessment is a recent assessment done by the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog. Smart Politics analyzed 23 reports on the Des Moines Register poll that came out this weekend that showed Paul to be in second place among likely Iowa caucus-goers, and found that about 5 percent of the coverage was about Paul, the same percentage devoted to Rick Santorum. In contrast, Romney, who came in third, dominated 20 percent of the reporting on the poll.