The Invisible Erik Paulsen
No member of the Minnesota congressional delegation has received less attention in the national media since Paulsen was first sworn into office in 2009
While no Minnesota U.S. House member could possibly compete – even if they wanted to – with the kind of attention Michele Bachmann was courting with the national media even before she jumped into the presidential race, given the possibility that Bachmann will not run for her 6th CD seat in 2012, the opportunity is ripe for a new member of the Gopher State congressional delegation to emerge as the go-to media darling.
That person is not likely to be 3rd CD Republican Erik Paulsen.
Whether for reasons of political strategy or simple personal preference, Representative Paulsen has a congressional record (and personal life) over the last 2+ years that has generated the least amount of national buzz among Minnesota’s U.S. House members – at least as measured by coverage in the national broadcast media.
A Smart Politics study of news transcripts from ABC, CBS, CNBC, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and NPR (via Lexis/Nexis) since January 2009 finds that Erik Paulsen has appeared or been mentioned on far fewer broadcasts than any member of the Minnesota U.S. House delegation, including freshman Republican Chip Cravaack, who has been in office only eight months during this span.
Paulsen has been mentioned just three times over the last 32 months since being first sworn into office in D.C. – twice on FOX News and once on MSNBC.
On MSNBC, Paulsen got name-dropped on the Rachel Maddow Show on June 24, 2010 in the midst of one of Maddow’s sarcastic rants during the BP oil spill distaster:
“What should be even more politically damaging than doing fundraising with Joe Barton? How about this? How about fundraising directly with BP? Cut out the middle man. That is what Republicans Marsha Blackburn and Erik Paulsen did this afternoon. They held a $1000-a-plate lunch for a Republican candidate for lunch, Cory Gardner of Colorado.”
On FOX, Paulsen was given a one line drop in a video clip on Beck on March 18, 2009 on AIG executive bonuses and a different video clip quote on the subject one hour later that night on Special Report with Brett Baier.
And that’s it.
Contrast that coverage to each of Paulsen’s non-Bachmann Minnesota U.S. House colleagues who have appeared or been mentioned in an average of 55 broadcasts over this 2+ year span.
Bachmann, who was in another stratosphere when it comes to national political coverage and media appearances even before her presidential bid, came in at 3,098 mentions by this measure of national media attention. (Multiple mentions on the same broadcast were not counted).
DFLer Keith Ellison was next, appearing or being mentioned on 194 broadcasts, followed by Republican John Kline at 25, DFLer Tim Walz at 19, DFLer Betty McCollum at 16, and DFLer Collin Peterson at eight.
DFLer Jim Oberstar received 60 mentions during his last two years in office until January 2011 when his 2010 opponent, Chip Cravaak, took his place. Cravaak has already notched 11 mentions in 2011 alone.
And what does all this mean?
For one, it means that Representative Paulsen is not getting asked to appear in national media outlets, or, if asked, he is declining.
Secondly, Paulsen’s relative lack of mentions in the national media vis-à-vis his Minnesota colleagues also means he is not getting talked about for who he is (e.g. no scandals or foot-in-mouth statements) or how he legislates (e.g. no headline-making votes or legislation authored).
And why might this be the case?
For starters, Paulsen represents one of the few districts across the nation (as it is currently drawn) without a partisan tilt.
Charlie Cook’s Partisan Voting Index tabulates MN-03 as “even” – one of just nine districts in the country with this designation. (Meaning, in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, the district performed even with the national average).
As a result of the partisan makeup of his district, Paulsen may be trying to keep a low profile in order to stay off the radar of would-be disgruntled conservatives who may be unaware of Paulsen’s relatively moderate voting record in the House, and liberals who are waiting to pounce on any mistake he might make which, if highlighted in the media, could turn off the important moderate vote.
To be sure, Paulsen has legislated moderately – at least relative to his own party.
National Journal ranked Paulsen as the 35th least conservative Republican in 2010, out of the 173 GOPers who received complete grades – or in the bottom 20 percent.
But Paulsen’s inability or unwillingness to get on the national radar cannot wholly be explained by a fear of upsetting the delicate political balance of the Gopher State’s 3rd CD.
For example, the district’s moderate ideology did not stop Paulsen’s (popular) predecessor Jim Ramstad from getting his name into the national spotlight.
During Ramstad’s last 32 months in office, he appeared or was mentioned on 23 national broadcasts: 12 on CNN, seven on NPR, two on ABC, and two on FOX.
Ramstad’s name surfaced with regards to a whole host of issues during this span such as stem cell research, government fraud, the U.S. role in the War in Iraq (and his departure from President George W. Bush), and his pet legislative project, mental health.
Of course, in the end, Paulsen is not elected by the nation, but by his district.
And the extent to which Paulsen is mentioned in the Minnesota media is a subject for another study.
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Unfortunately, the first and second grade students in the 3rd CD see more of my congressman than I do. A map on his website details recent events that Rep. Paulsen attended in his district. That map showed at least eight events wherein Rep. Paulsen read the book “House Mouse, Senate Mouse” to these students. A Paulsen aide, said that the reason for these book readings is because, “…in fifteen years these students would remember the reading and vote for Representative Paulsen.”
At the same time, my congressman can rarely find time to communicate with his constituents.and, when he does, constituents are given only one or two days notice of his “office hours” or townhall meetings. Although he has an invisible hand in the district, he employs an iron fist in Congress voting for every draconian cut suggest by Republicans. And we, his constiuents, are given no opportunity to express our disgust.
Marsha Blackburn Voted FOR:
Omnibus Appropriations, Special Education, Global AIDS Initiative, Job Training, Unemployment Benefits, Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations, Agriculture Appropriations, FY2004 Foreign Operations Appropriations, U.S.-Singapore Trade, U.S.-Chile Trade, Supplemental Spending for Iraq & Afghanistan, Flood Insurance Reauthorization , Prescription Drug Benefit, Child Nutrition Programs, Surface Transportation, Job Training and Worker Services, Agriculture Appropriations, Foreign Aid, Debt Limit Increase, Fiscal 2005 Omnibus Appropriations, Vocational/Technical Training, Supplemental Appropriations, UN “Reforms.” Patriot Act Reauthorization, CAFTA, Katrina Hurricane-relief Appropriations, Head Start Funding, Line-item Rescission, Oman Trade Agreement, Military Tribunals, Electronic Surveillance, Head Start Funding, COPS Funding, Funding the REAL ID Act (National ID), Foreign Intelligence Surveillance, Thought Crimes “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, Peru Free Trade Agreement, Economic Stimulus, Farm Bill (Veto Override), Warrantless Searches, Employee Verification Program, Body Imaging Screening, Patriot Act extension., Supplemental Appropriations, Patriot Act Extension.
Marsha Blackburn Voted AGAINST:
Ban on UN Contributions, eliminate Millennium Challenge Account, WTO Withdrawal, UN Dues Decrease, Defunding the NAIS, Iran Military Operations defunding Iraq Troop Withdrawal, congress authorization of Iran Military Operations, Withdrawing U.S. Soldiers from Afghanistan, Libya Troop Withdrawal.
Marsha Blackburn is my Congressman.
See her “blatantly unconstitutional” votes at :
Where is Waldo?
Ms. Christensen is right that Paulsen seems to fear everyone except school children. He goes along with the GOP’s long term efforts to cripple public schools -so maybe he goes there to say he supports “schools”. Kinda like shamelessly taking credit for highway projects he voted against.
Paulsen is expert at hiding from his constituents. Like other Republicans nowadays, he seems to be afraid of speaking to real people at town halls. -I’d be hiding out too if my party had just crashed the economy with the trickle down tragedy! That must be why he gives only a day or two notice and only on his website -no e-mail, no mailer -a far cry from his predecessor Jim Ramstad (the last of a dying breed of reasonable Republicans who even Democrats were OK with). Paulsen is also a pioneer of the drive-by town hall -your phone rings -you’re on a town hall! No notice, no time to prepare questions, no certainty that you’re not screened. He hasn’t started charging for town halls like other Republicans but it wouldn’t surprise me if that starts soon (these guys share notes).
Interestingly, he used to send out mailers -indistinguishable from his slick campaign lit- that made him the number three big spender in the House at a cool half mil of taxpayer money for franking expenditures. Now there’s some government waste! Of course, after people took notice, even these stopped.
His strategy has been to adopt Ramstad’s campaign colors, lay low and hope no one notices he’s a Teavangelical, letting his corporate PACs buddies handle the dirty tricks while he fades into the foliage, grinning like the Cheshire cat.
To Mr. Green: You received mailers from his office? Wow. Not once has he reached out to me as one of his constituents. We first moved here in 2007 and received at least three pieces of mail addressed to us from Jim Ramstad before he retired. In the 3 years since, not once have I received any thing form Erik Paulsen. Our address has (addressed to people who lived here before us) but nothing addressed to us.
It’s a shame that Erik Pauslen wraps himself in such a cocoon. The disconnect that he must have from the people in his district that struggle everyday must be astounding. I don’t understand what he does or where he gets his information from… what he’s doing is sure not helping the people who live where he represents.
… and when the call comes in for one of his “drive by” telephone town hall meetings, it comes through from a blocked number, so you can’t tell who is calling. I never pick up calls from blocked numbers — they’re usually from cranks and telemarketers — and so I’ve never been able to participate in one of these. (The automated voice mail you’re left doesn’t leave a call-in number that you can call back to participate.)
Another case in point: Paulsen again tries to slip another hastily scheduled town hall past his constituents. He announced Friday (Labor Day Weekend when I know everyone’s sitting at their computer waiting for Paulsen’s e-mails) that he’s having a town hall tonight Sept 6th.
A master of avoidance.
This would make for any interesting update … and considering how Representative Paulsen was skewered on the Hugh Hewitt radio program last week, he may be more selective about where he agrees to participate.
@Steve, it’s too bad. Telephone town halls are a pretty awesome way of communicating with elected officials. I think the law has since changed regarding the caller ID number. I am pretty sure that it’s mandatory that there be one, so I hope you have since been able to take part in an event.
With regards to the story, sometimes it’s just better to fly low in politics. It’s so heated these days, that as long as you do good for your constituents, you’re in their good books. Just don’t start tweeting bad pictures 😉