Fox News appearances shapes primary campaign
The aspiring Republican presidential candidates have logged countless hours in the living rooms of voters, pitching their platforms and firing jabs at President Obama.Yet there is one difference this election season. The contenders, even here in the early-voting states, are far more likely to make their visits on television than to ever drop by in person.In what is shaping up as a profound change in American politics, the living room stops and the cafe visits where candidates offer a handshake and make an appeal for support are creeping toward extinction. The onetime fixtures of the campaign trail are giving way to the Fox News studio and televised debates.It has been five decades since television began to transform presidential races, but never before have the effects of cable television been so apparent in the early stages of a campaign.The latest sign can be found in the resurgence of Newt Gingrich, who is now trying, with little more than a month before the voting starts, to build an on-the-ground organization in states that can keep up with his on-the-air popularity. He has spent less time at traditional campaign events and more time on television than most any of his rivals.“Everything has changed,” said Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, who traveled across Iowa as an unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate four years ago. “It’s like a town hall every day on Fox News. You hear people talking back to you what you saw yesterday on Fox. I like Fox and I’m glad we have an outlet, but it is having a major, major effect on what happens.”The Fox News effect is amplified by other factors. Cable networks are staging more debates than ever, obliging candidates to build their fall schedules around preparing for and traveling to the slickly produced televised clashes, and putting a premium on a set of skills different from those of retail campaigning.A number of candidates, especially Mr. Gingrich and Herman Cain, have used their campaigns as promotional tours for books, movies and their own personal brands. As a result, they often visit places that are good markets for them rather than going to the traditional early-voting states, enabling them to skirt some of the scrutiny that comes with regular appearances before voters.A log compiled by Fox News shows that Mr. Cain has been interviewed 63 times since announcing his candidacy — more than any of his rivals — followed by Mr. Gingrich with 52 television appearances.The rise of social media also has given candidates greater opportunity to connect with voters electronically and build databases of potential donors and volunteers without investing large amounts of time on the ground.As a result, some candidates who lack big war chests and get-out-the-vote operations can maintain higher public profiles and greater credibility than they otherwise might have been able to. This has undercut the advantages enjoyed by well-financed, well-established candidates like Mitt Romney, who has spent considerably less time on television than any of his rivals.
...It is ironic that Fox News has helped to take the money out of politics, at least for GOP candidates. Romney did his own Fox News appearance last night , finally. It did not go well for him. Bret Baier did a Tim Russert job on Romney showing him clips of prior statements he made that were inconsistent with his current positions. Romney, is normally unflappable, but he seemed tense and argumentative in the interview. Perhaps that is why he has avoided interviews.