Not a single one of the more than 20 2008 presidential primary candidates had ever served as a TV news analyst – but that’s likely to change for 2012.
The New York Times‘ Brian Stelter writes about the TV analysts – from MSNBC and Harold Ford to Fox News and Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee – and the potential political candidates they employ.
With Ford, a former Tennessee congressman, considering a run for New York Senate, his contract as analyst with MSNBC was suspended a couple weeks ago (Ford previously served as an FNC analyst). “If you’re seriously examining a run for office,” said MSNBC President Phil Griffin, “you can’t host a show or be a general analyst.”
But using the same logic, maybe Palin, Huckabee and Newt Gingrich aren’t yet “seriously” examining a run for office – they are all still collecting Fox News paychecks.
Eyebrows were raised in Washington when “Fox News Sunday” promoted what the host Chris Wallace called an “exclusive interview” with Ms. Palin on Feb. 7. Ms. Palin is, after all, paid by Fox. (Mr. Wallace acknowledged her analyst job during the interview.)
“Some like to joke that every time Fox puts them on TV, they are making a de facto in-kind contribution to their future campaigns,” said another television news executive who requested anonymity because he was not authorized by his network to comment on Fox.
It’s hard to argue that Huckabee and Palin couldn’t potentially be helped by appearing regularly on a network that allows them to talk to an audience of millions – and an audience that consists of a lot of independents. But it could also go the other way. Some would argue Palin’s appearances on Fox News since she’s joined the network have not helped her beyond exciting the base she already had.
Instead of some “in-kind contribution to their future campaigns,” there seems to be something else at work – ratings, and with ratings, money. Mike Huckabee regularly has the most viewers on Fox News during the weekends, and Palin appearances on various FNC programs help to boost viewership as well. FNC wins with these big political stars, and if they decide to throw their hat back in the political ring later? Well, that’s secondary.
CNN’s Washington Bureau Chief David Bohrman said “networks that employ the analysts ‘probably ought to realize that they’re being taken advantage of a little bit,'” and that may be true. But it’s mutual.
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