GOP Candidate Could Be Trouble For Olbermann and Fox News

Katie Couric had a pretty good first night, too. When she started at CBS, her debut ratings augured a Cronkite-like future. That ended fast.

So, while it's noteworthy that enough people found Current TV to give Keith Olbermann a solid start on the network Monday, check back in a week, maybe even Friday.

One headwind Olbermann faces over the next six months is beyond his control: the possibility that Jon Huntsman gains strong appeal as a Republican Presidential contender. That's a potential trouble spot for CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, too.

It's always been unlikely that next year's GOP primary race would last as long as, or be as deliciously appealing as, the Obama-Clinton battle in 2008. Still, the cable news networks have been banking on a captivating campaign to drive ratings for most of next year.

Huntsman moving front and center may curtail that a bit. Even CNN, the would-be nonpartisan network, traffics in red meat and pointed sound bites. Negative campaigning and attacks based on superficial takes on the issues get pundits pumped and viewers intrigued.

Huntsman, the former Utah governor, who served as Obama's ambassador to China, apparently doesn't want to engage in any of that stuff. Americans say they want civil campaigning and sticking to the issues - and maybe most do - but do the viewers of MSNBC and Fox News?

Do network executives needing to keep people interested after there's a GOP nominee and a lull period follows between, say, March and August want to have to delve into the weeds of health care reform?

How is Olbermann going to rip a candidate in Huntsman who appears more suited to reasoned discussion at a seminar than launching missiles from the stump?

Huntsman's tone when announcing his candidacy and then again on CNN Wednesday had to frighten Roger Ailes and MSNBC counterparts, making them hope Mitt Romney- and Michele Bachmann-style warfare gains steam.

Forget about birth certificates, Hunstman went one better and suggested Obama is, get this, patriotic.

"I think he is a very decent person," Huntsman said on "American Morning." "He is earnest and hardworking and doing his best. We come from different parties and different world views and different philosophies. We want to do what is best for a country we love."

When asked about serving the Obama administration in China, Huntsman didn't say he saw the administration's foreign policy up-close and realized it's abysmal. He said he was glad he served.

On Afghanistan, Huntsman didn't take the bait when the anchor seemingly wanted him to advocate a swift pullback on troops there. He did advocate a drawdown, but as a former ambassador stopped well short of a potentially popular isolationist position.

"I think we will always have a presence in South Asia," he said.

A campaign can change a candidate's tenor and positions rather quickly, based on nothing more than a poll. John McCain has been a chameleon. His advisors are helping Huntsman. But should Huntsman want to turn up the negativity, he may not be capable with his relatively soft-spoken style.

On the plus side for the news networks now: Huntsman is trailing in the polls, which means the polls most important to them - the Nielsen figures - should hold up throughout 2012.

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3 comments about "GOP Candidate Could Be Trouble For Olbermann and Fox News ".
  1. Michael Kaplan from Blue Sky Creative , June 22, 2011 at 6:35 p.m.

    I'm sure Keith will survive one or two moderate Republicans running for office, as long as there are still dozens (hundreds?) of hard-core Tea Party types willing to step in front of a microphone these days.

    Besides, one Michele Bachman is worth a dozen Jon Huntsmen when it comes to comedy. Her recent twits about Intelligent Design and the Canadian banking system are as good as it gets when it comes to serving yourself up to political satire.

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston , June 22, 2011 at 8:42 p.m.

    How silly. Huntsmen is too moderate to matter. Republicans will never support another moderate, which is how the left tricked them into nominating McCain. Proof? Huntsmen was endorsed recently by Harry Reid. That's the kiss of death.

  3. T Y from Freelance Producer / DP , June 23, 2011 at 8:08 a.m.

    If Huntsman got the nomination perhaps the networks would be able to delve deeply into the issues affecting citizens and analyze the finer points from various perspectives. Things like how the economy really works, economic theories, tax policy, farm/oil/corporate subsidies, corruption, income and wealth inequality, worldwide educational system comparisons. The list of worthy topics is long. No wait, what's Lindsay Lohan doing now?