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U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) was 152 votes away from winning the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa last weekend … although you’d never know it from the mainstream media coverage that followed the event.

It was all Michele Bachmann, all the time … with whatever ink was left over given to Texas Gov. Rick Perry (who jumped into the race) and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (who dropped out of it).

Hell, even that joke of a candidate Rick Santorum was praised for his fourth-place finish.

Obviously, we haven’t been ignoring Paul …

We featured him prominently in our headline story on the Ames Straw Poll … and we wrote another headline story the day before that touted his emergence as a credible candidate in the 2012 GOP presidential primary race.

All this in addition to our effusive praise of Paul as “the only pure soul” seeking the GOP nomination.

Why, then … is the media intentionally ignoring Paul’s candidacy?

“After Ames, it was as if Paul had been sentenced to the Phantom Zone,” The Politico‘s Roger Simon observed.

For example, why did Bachmann receive invites from all five major Sunday morning talk shows – while Paul’s lone invite got cancelled? Why is Bachmann now being touted as a “top tier” candidate – along with Mitt Romney and Rick Perry – while Paul’s candidacy remains a sideshow freak festival?

According to the media, the reason is simple … Paul isn’t a top-tier candidate. And never will be.

As a recent Salon piece noted, Paul’s straw poll successes are due to “his army mobilizing for relatively low-turnout events and producing deceptively impressive results.” According to this view, Paul doesn’t deserve attention because he hasn’t proven that he can “build on his sizable (but ultimately limited) base of core supporters and develop mass appeal within the Republican Party.”

That’s true … of course it’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Paul hasn’t been able to “develop mass appeal” because the mainstream press – when it isn’t ignoring him completely – is using the limited coverage it does provide to reinforce the perception that he’s a loon.

That’s obviously in contrast to the MSM’s objective with Bachmann – which is to focus lots of energy (even a national magazine cover) on making her look like a loon.

Somewhere, in the backroom of some Obamacare-funded media outlet, it’s apparently been decided that there are only enough resources available to smear one Tea Party candidate.

Seriously … does anyone think for a second that Ron Paul’s candidacy would have been given the same legitimacy had he won the Ames Straw Poll by 152 votes? Of course not … the story in that case would have focused on Bachmann’s organization and how it was able to match Paul’s army of kooks.

Lucky Bachmann, huh?

Oh well … at least she’s got a role to play in this ongoing two-party charade. Not Paul. It’s becoming clear that no matter how many auditions he may win, there’s just no place in the American political discourse for a guy who consistently makes more sense than the rest of the candidates combined.

His campaign must be kept off of the national stage at all costs – and then mocked for its failure to thrive on that stage.

Obviously, the mainstream media’s elevation of cookie cutter candidates – at the expense of candidates like Ron Paul – is every bit as criminal as the fiscal negligence of the last two presidents who have been elected thanks to this rigged vetting process.

But such is two-party America, where “red” and “blue” sound bites do ferocious battle each day for the hearts and minds of intellectually incurious Americans – many of whom remain hopelessly convinced that there are actually differences between the two parties responsible for jointly bankrupting this country.

There aren’t … there are just new labels and phrases to make you think there’s a difference.

Oh, and a coordinated effort to make sure that nobody ever emerges who might actually do something to fix the problem.

UPDATE: Jon Stewart of The Daily Show agrees …