Opinion Brief

The GOP's late 2012 start: Blame Fox?

Three of the four leading Republicans who are eyeing presidential runs are on the Fox News payroll. Is that why they haven't jumped in the ring?

People are starting to wonder why no big-name Republican has formally launched a bid to unseat President Obama in 2012, and commentator David Frum has suggested it could indirectly be Fox News' fault. Three potential front-runners — Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich — are paid contributors on Fox, and will have to give up their lucrative gigs if they run, says Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush and one of The Week's columnists. They'll also lose what amounts to free advertising — Media Matters says the airtime five potential GOP candidates on Fox's payroll got last year would have cost them $55 million. Are their Fox affiliations delaying these would-be candidates' declarations?

Fox is definitely a factor: For Republicans "eyeing the White House," staying on Fox is just a "more efficient" way to reach voters than trudging around the early primary states, says Steve Kornacki in Salon. But potential candidates have other reasons to bide their time. Some probably want to see whether Sarah Palin will run, since she's bound to hog the national press. Others probably figure that, given Obama's rising poll numbers, he may be tougher to beat than expected.
"Do Republicans really want to run against this guy?"

No one wants to go first: The likely GOP candidates have been remarkably "candid" about their reluctance to run, says Christian Heinze in The Hill. Mike Huckabee — on Fox — "isolated two factors — the cost of a long campaign and potential overexposure." That might sound odd coming from a Fox TV host, but even Mitt Romney — "the only one of the top four candidates who's not employed by Fox News" — says he wants to avoid "overexposure." Bottom line: Nobody wants to jump on the stage first and become "a sitting duck."
"GOP hopefuls candid on delayed bids"

It is just smart to wait: The media wants to goad Republicans into declaring, says Ed Morrissey in Hot Air, because getting the horse race started "means bigger ratings." Starting early made sense in 2008 because the Oval Office was open. But this time it's smart "for Republican presidential contenders to hold their powder" — once they declare, Obama can use their every word to solicit donations. Republicans should use this time talking policy with "battleground" voters — the "silly game-show" debates will begin soon enough.
"Huckabee says to count him out of early debates"

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