After a brief spike in interest, the mainstream media coverage of GOP candidate Ron Paul is back to nearly nothing, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. This week, less than 5 percent of all campaign stories focused on Paul, the lowest point since Dec. 11. when strong performances in Iowa and New Hampshire helped stoke some interest. Over the same period, Paul's performance in the polls has only improved, going from the single digits to 12.7 percent, putting him nearly even with Rick Santorum, in the current RealClearPolitics average.

But in Pew's weekly study, Paul has been heading in the opposite direction. Pew tracks a list of 52 mainstream news outlets across broadcast television, cable news, newspapers, radio and the 12 most popular news sites to measure exposure. As you can see from the graph below, the downward trajectory of coverage volume has been steep for Paul, as the star of New Gingrich rose following his decisive victory in South Carolina and strong polling in Florida.   

The Project for Excellence in Journalism also tracks the tone of coverage, which in the last week, saw a sharp drop in "positive" stories and a slight increase in "negative" stories:

The change of coverage represents a sort of whipsaw effect for the candidate, who toiled in obscurity in October and November (rather unjustifiably), exploded in December and sunk like a rock beginning in early January amid bruising coverage of racist newsletters penned under his name and a last place showing in South Carolina. On the bright side, Paul is still a mighty presence on Twitter, according to the Pew study:

Another plus for Paul, about 55 percent of those mentions are positive while only 25 percent are negative, according to Pew. The Washington Post also tracks Twitter mentions by candidate and this week, ranks Paul as receiving the second most mentions of the GOP candidates with 259,00 behind Gingrich's 294,000. If MSM coverage hewed more closely to Twitter coverage, the libertarian firebrand would be golden! Don't expect much more pickup on Paul this week. While Florida's primary becomes the nation's focus, Paul is campaigning in Maine. (Though that won't prevent him from raising a wad of cash in a money bomb protest of the TSA).