Republicans’ Top Ten Pundits, FOX News’ Coverage of Potential GOP 2012 Candidates

Although not a GOP affiliate, ConservativeHome, a new website that launched on November 15, 2010, hopes to spur the ongoing debate about the future of the Republican Party and conservatism. They also believe the GOP should function as a broad-based coalition to ensure long-term success. CH recently polled 1,152 Republican activists (identified by YouGov America) on who they consider to be the top three political commentators. Results were released yesterday; here are the top ten:

The Top Ten Pundits Among Republican Activists

The total percentages for each of the top ten were*:

•Rush Limbaugh: 41%
•Glenn Beck: 33%
•Charles Krauthammer: 29%
•Bill O’Reilly: 24%
•Sean Hannity: 21%
•Newt Gingrich: 16%
•Michelle Malkin: 16%
•Mike Huckabee: 13%
•Ann Coulter: 13%
•George Will: 13%

* There were two phases to the voting process. Last week Panel members were asked to nominate favorite commentators. This week Panel members were presented with a list, derived from their nominations, and asked to vote for their three favorite.

•The list reveals the massive gap between broadcast pundits and newspaper commentators.

•Limbaugh, for example, was named as a favorite by 41% of ConservativeHome’s Republican Panel.

•Worryingly, columnists often regarded as among the most thoughtful conservatives did not fare well. David Brooks of the New York Times only mustered a mention from 1.3% of the panel (14 people). Ross Douthat, also at the NYT, won just four votes and Mike Gerson, Washington Post writer and former speechwriter to President Bush, gets just three mentions.

•Another former Bush speechwriter and Rush Limbaugh’s leading critic, David Frum, only gets three mentions. Peggy Noonan, however, gets favorited 35 times.

The ticket to high status is clearly Fox News. One of only two upmarket newspaper columnist to appear in the top ten being Charles Krauthammer, who combines his syndicated Washington Post column with his Fox punditry. He was named by 29% of grassroots Republicans. The other broadsheet columnist, at number ten, is George Will, syndicated Washington Post Op-Ed writer and ABC News veteran.

(my emphasis)
To join YouGov’s Republican Panel click here.

Regarding FOX News’ high status…

Liberal advocacy group, Media Matters, has been keeping tabs on FOX News airtime featuring John Bolton, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee. Although Media Matters receives funding from George Soros, their conclusions are worth considering: Because of his weekend television show, Huckabee registers more time than the others. Estimates are that these five potential 2012 GOP presidential candidates were on the air nearly 66 hours in the first 10 months of the year. With current advertising rates, the five of them – thus far – have received at least $40 million worth of free advertising.

DAVID BAUDER -AP News
Nov 18, 2010

[...] For Fox, locking up these prominent Republicans for roles on the network is a good way to appeal to a viewing audience dominated by conservatives, Graham said. The payoff comes on nights like the midterm elections, a good-news night for Republicans where Fox outdrew every broadcast and cable network covering the races in prime time.

“They see it as trying to even out the bias,” he said. “There is just a remarkable amount of promotion of Obama and it continues.”
[...]

Fox’s stable of potential candidates raises questions for the network and political process moving forward. Pat Buchanan, who worked at CNN in the 1990s, took periodic breaks from “Crossfire” when he announced candidacies.

The questions are similar for Fox: Will these politicians leave Fox’s employ if they run for president? Will they delay announcing candidacies in order to get more time on the air? Will Fox feel comfortable keeping these politicians as employees if a candidacy is announced?

The exposure could be a real advantage for these politicians, and the lack of it a detriment for potential candidates such as Mitt Romney who are not in Fox’s employ. As it is, candidates will be going out of their way to appeal to Fox personalities like Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity, Rabin-Havt said.

“There never has been a network that has so dominated a political process,” he said.

There’s also the possibility that GOP candidates in the upcoming political season may avoid other news organizations to conduct much of their campaigning before a Fox News audience, he said.

Huckabee appeared onscreen on Fox for more than 38 hours through Oct. 31, according to Media Matters. Palin and Gingrich each had nine hours, Santorum had five hours and Bolton, four.

(my emphasis)

Fox News contributors sign contracts forbidding them from appearing on any network other than Fox. Their television coverage serves as a platform for their messages. Politico quoted Jim Dyke (GOP strategist) making a germane point: “As it becomes clear somebody is looking at running, Fox gets into a bit of a box because doesn’t it become an in-kind contribution if they’re being paid?”

Perhaps this is why Governor Romney joked with Jay Leno: “If you ever see me sign up for a gig on Fox News, it’ll be a clear indication that I’ve decided to run for president. That’s not in the cards anytime soon – thanks.

Questions…

1. We clearly don’t want to alienate FOX News, but has their approach to the 2012 potential presidential GOP candidates been fair and balanced thus far?

2. If not, do you see their coverage on the 2012 GOP possibilities becoming more/less fair and balanced in the future?

3. Do you agree with Conservative Home’s Top 10 Pundits poll results?

4. If not, which pundit(s) would you add/remove?

► Jayde Wyatt

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10 Responses to Republicans’ Top Ten Pundits, FOX News’ Coverage of Potential GOP 2012 Candidates

  1. Interesting stuff. I don’t watch FOX News so I really couldn’t answer your first two questions. I generally agree with the list but I would place Hannity higher upon the list, and probably take off Ann Coulter and Huckabee – putting on Laura Ingraham and Peggy Noonan.

    Interesting dynamic FOX has created here. FOX is a business, and you can always expect them act in their own best interest – which includes theme saying they’re fair and balanced. They are no more balanced than CNN, but obviously I agree with them much more.

    I’m not certain not being a FOX contributor hurts Romney any. His freedom from any contractual obligations allows him to be anywhere he wants, at anytime he wants, which includes appearing on other networks as well as FOX News. I really don’t see FOX having motive to be unfair to Romney unless they offered to him to contribute and he turned it down.

    In the case of free advertising, I don’t think it’s unfair for potential 2012 candidates to work for FOX, just as it’s not unfair for Romney to raise extra money by establishing state-based PACs. It’s all within rules and fair game. You use whatever tools you can to improve your standing.

    I believe Romney will use his uncontracted free time between now and spring to travel around the world and beef-up his foreign policy experience and credentials. That’s one thing that people who have to work jobs can’t do.

  2. Typed that on my cell. I see a few funny spellings from my auto- spell correction. Oh well.

  3. Sam says:

    Great insight Nate. I am actually very concerned about how Fox is conducting their 2012 coverage, as a frequent viewer. Every discussion about Romney is solely focused on health care. They are determined to bring him down. It’s very clear that they do not want him to get nominated.
    They want Palin to run SO BAD! They are DESPERATE. And Huckabee’s show is very improper. As far as Romney’s state-based PACs, they WONT let him get away with it. Just like in 2008, they will use his money to say how ambitious, desperate, and corrupt he “is.”
    This is all true and very unfortunate.

  4. Sam says:

    When I say true, I mean the things I said about Fox. It’s not true that Romney is ambitious, desperate, and corrupt.

  5. Rebel Ross says:

    I think Joe Scarborough should be on the list and George Will should probably be a bit higher than he is.

  6. Jayde Wyatt says:

    Thanks for the good comments everyone; I appreciate it!

    Let me begin by saying that while the race for 2012 isn’t officially underway, it’s naïve to believe campaigns haven’t begun. Which brings me to FOX News.

    I watch FOX News. On the matter of their coverage of potential 2012 GOP candidates, I don’t dispute the right of the FOX Five – Bolton, Santorum, Gingrich, Huckabee, and Palin to be employed by FOX. However, in my opinion, at this point, it does give them an advantage. When they are on the air, their opinions are sought and freely given without in-depth questioning or opposition. If a controversy concerning one of the FOX Five arises, a sympathetic host gives them ample time to explain and justify themselves. Huckabee not only has his show, but is a frequent guest on different FOX News panels. On the days that Palin isn’t actually on FOX, she is mentioned multiple times in positive terms. Gingrich is billed as the go-to guru and happily fills the bill. Santorum is a smiling, sitting advertisement for himself while Bolton is less visible. It’s their right to be on FOX; do keep in mind that their contractual obligations also provide cover for them to decline interviews on other networks which may not favor them.

    It’s the combination of the overt self-promoting by the FOX Five – some more than others – and their frequent air time, combined with the covert anti-Romney undercurrent – from some – that catches my radar. Greta Van Susteren’s recent statements on GretaWire with less-than-flattering implications against Romney, the recent anti-Romney piece written by FOX News contributor Christian Whiton, Baier’s 12 in ’12 piece on Romney which, in my opinion, wasn’t the fair representation Baier said he’d produce, and regular appearances by Romney naysayers Dick Morris and Bill Kristol, along with other intangibles, that combine to keep me aware. I think it’s safe to say that those of the FOX Five who truly intend to become presidential candidates and their supporters are pleased with the advantages they have NOW.

    Romney’s distinction of being the only potential Republican presidential candidate not currently in elected office and not employed by FOX News gives him the advantage of not being beholden to a news network and the freedom to take the hard questions from outside the safe zone – from which Romney has never shied. In this respect, Romney is the TRUE rogue. His not being part of the FOX Five is also being noted by Independents, which could be to his advantage. It will be interesting to see how it all balances out.

    In my opinion, it’s not a question of whether Romney should be employed by FOX or not. It’s the current slant and how FOX will cover candidates once the race for 2012 is officially underway. Will they be fair and balanced? Should favoritism continue for any candidate who was once employed by them, I believe it will be to the detriment of that candidate and FOX.

    America is watching.

    RE the Top 10 Republican Pundits: I also think Laura Ingraham and Joe Scarborough (though not a favorite) should be added – above Huckabee. Since Hannity often refers to Mark Levin as ‘the great one’ I am surprised he didn’t make the cut. Not being a presence on television may be a factor. On a personal note, I like Hugh Hewitt.

  7. Rebel Ross says:

    @Jayde Wyatt

    That was a fantastic comment that might even deserve it’s own blog posting or maybe simply added/incorporated into this post that you’ve already posted.

  8. Jayde Wyatt :

    Romney’s distinction of being the only potential Republican presidential candidate not currently in elected office and not employed by FOX News gives him the advantage of not being beholden to a news network and the freedom to take the hard questions from outside the safe zone – from which Romney has never shied. In this respect, Romney is the TRUE rogue. His not being part of the FOX Five is also being noted by Independents, which could be to his advantage. It will be interesting to see how it all balances out.

    Romney as the true rogue… haha – I love it.

    It of course in the best in of FOX News that Sarah Palin run. She is a media super-star. That means ratings, which means money. Palin dominates the internet search engine queries 16-1 over Romney. The plain fact is Romney is not as sensational which doesn’t bode well for ratings.

    Perhaps, as well, the reason FOX focuses on RomneyCare when covering Romney is because it is the most sensational news that there is about him right now. It’s all about entertaining the viewers.

    Irregardless… Romney will prevail!!

  9. Jayde Wyatt says:

    @ Ross – Thank you very much!

    @ Nate – YES! Romney will prevail!

  10. Bill says:

    Regarding the list, I wonder how they defined “Republican activists.” The article says that they were identified by “YouGov,” but I wonder how “YouGov” picked the people who answered the questions. The fact that “YouGov” identified these people means that the survey was not based on some kind of random sample. The results only indicate the slant of the group that “YouGov” picked.

    I see no real disadvantage to Mr. Romney in not being a Fox News employee.

    The primaries are based on the odd traits of specific states early and staying power later. The Iowa and New Hampshire primaries are based on getting an effective organization on the ground. Anything can happen in Iowa, but in New Hampshire, not being one more “Fox News person” in the race may make Mr. Romney appear more independent. That independent appearance usually helps in New Hampshire. South Carolina seems to vote for the candidate who can best claim that now is “his turn” to be the nominee. Nothing else really explains how the state broke for Bob Dole in ’96 and John McCain in 2008. Mr. Romney will have as good a claim on that role as anyone this time because of his party building work over the past two years. If we add Nevada and Michigan to the list of “early” states, we are looking at two more states where Mr. Romney has great organization.

    Later in the campaign, people will be looking at individual strengths and weaknesses of candidates more closely. Familiarity with Fox News personalities might help some of these candidates, but the effect shouldn’t be that strong. To some extent, becoming a Fox News personality may hurt them because they will be seen as being less serious leaders.

    In the general election, being a Fox News personality will certainly hurt them. While many independents watch Fox News and like getting a different perspective, the “Fox is in bed with the GOP” accusation will make some independents suspicious. If Mr. Romney can’t be tied to that suspicion, he’ll be a stronger candidate. The fact that he’ll have that advantage in the general election may also make some Republican primary voters in the middle and late states vote for him.

    I worry about many things, but this one doesn’t bother me.