At The Atlantic — which really does have some good writers, Megan McArdle notwithstanding — Joshua Green has a post called “Explaining the Rand Paul Disaster” that’s worth a read.
Green says that the Rand Paul we’ve been watching in national media this week has an entirely different persona than the Rand Paul who campaigned for the Kentucky primary.
What Paul spoke about on the stump was mostly the size of the deficit, his desire for a balanced budget and term limits, and his belief that a lot of what Congress does has no basis in the Constitution. Paul’s favorite example was health care, not civil rights. But the interesting thing to me, as I wrote on Monday, is that he took care to emphasize those parts of the Tea Party agenda that appeal (he claimed) to independents and moderates. There was no talk of race, civil rights, secession, birtherism and general Fox News lunacy. “The Tea Party is not about extremism,” Paul said again and again. The impression in the broader media, including the liberal blogosphere, that Paul is an angry, unlikeable nut was not borne out by my experience on the campaign trail.
The other part of the equation is that Kentucky newspapers and other news outlets have been decimated by job cuts, reducing the ability of the press corps to run the candidates through the gauntlet, as it were. So Kentucky journalists have been letting Paul slide by. I’m not sure I buy the last explanation entirely, but Kentucky media did seem to let him slide for some reason.
So he was not at all prepared to be in the glare of national media attention, which focused on him after his appearance on Rachel Maddow’s show Wednesday night. So now he’s canceled a scheduled appearance onSunday’s “Meet the Press,” which I think was cowardly — I mean, if you can’t face David Gregory, who can you face?
See also Steve Benen, “When Extremism and Ignorance Collide.”