A month ago I read in Breitbart that Paul Ryan’s approval rating had dropped to 43% in his primary fight against challenger Paul Nehlen – whose popularity had improved to 32%, according to the poll cited in the article. I thought, wow! Paul Ryan is about to go the way of Eric Cantor. This was followed up with articles announcing that Ryan is “running scared” ahead of his primary.
To my great surprise, I also came across articles in the non-Trump media (basically everything but Breitbart and Drudge) stating that Paul Ryan is cruising to an easy victory, and that his challenger Paul Nehlen is a nut who nobody takes seriously. They also referenced polls, but these polls had Ryan’s support among likely primary voters pegged at upward of 80%, with Nehlen polling in the single-digits or low teens. I thought, wow! Talk about dueling narratives.
My second thought was that the nice thing about this storyline clash is that we don’t have to guess which is right. We will know soon enough. Since the stories are so divergent, one will have to turn out to be completely false. My third thought was that this is an interesting test of the Trump media’s reliability. Are they telling a story that everybody else is ignoring and lying about, or are they are just pushing agitprop?
On Tuesday, Paul Ryan beat Paul Nehlen 85% to 15%. All the mainstream polls had predicted this result. The only outlier was the poll that Breitbart touted. It was so singularly divergent from all the other polls - as well as the final result - that its methodology and purpose can be legitimately called into question.
With regard to Paul Ryan’s victory, when you win 85% of the vote, your support is as universal as it is ever going to get in a free election. All politicians naturally accumulate enemies, people who hate you for purely personal reasons or because they are under the sway of some eccentric ideology. That Paul Nehlen only received 15% means his level of support was little more than white noise.
You know, Andrew Breitbart is a hero of mine. He was a bully who liked to bully bullies. He loved to fight for the little guy. The last thing he would ever do would be to shackle himself to some politician – even a politician he more or less agreed with. I cry when I think about what a Goldman Sachs alumni has done with his organization.