Dylan Byers, a welcome addition to Ben Smith’s blog, raises an intriguing possibility, which, if it comes to pass, would be terrible news for Mitt Romney:
As Newtmentum continues to build, some members of Washington’s chattering class are beginning to wonder whether Fox News chairman Roger Ailes might throw his network’s weight behind former contributor Gingrich — a move that would deal a powerful blow to Mitt Romney, and might help level an otherwise uneven playing field.
Ailes is seen as an essential friend for any Republican presidential hopeful — as one conservative told New York Magazine’s Gabe Sherman earlier this year, “You can’t run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger.” But the chairman has been dissatisfied with this year’s offering. “[H]e hasn’t found any of them, including the adults in the room — Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels, Mitt Romney — compelling,” Sherman reported in May.
Romney hasn’t helped himself in this regard. His recent interview with Bret Baier notwithstanding, Romney has proven far less available to the media — and far less available to Fox — than the other candidates. In the last six months, Gingrich has made more than three times as many appearances on the network as Romney, according to Media Matters, which tracks Fox obsessively.
What’s funny about this is that it’s simply come to be treated as normal that Fox News — which wants to be taken seriously as a news organization — would “throw its weight,” the full weight of its whole operation, behind one primary candidate, to the detriment of another. The likelihood of this happening doesn’t even raise eyebrows. Media reporters can speculate about it happening in the same kind of matter-of-fact tone that they might use to speculate about personnel shifts.
I don’t pretend to have any insight into the thinking of Roger Ailes, but it’s always seemed to me that Fox has leaned in the direction of candidates like Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani. Putting aside their moderation on social issues, guys like Christie and Giuliani hold appeal to conservatives that’s rooted in their bluster, in the sense that they’re not afraid to go in and kick the butts of liberal whiners and union thugs alike.
Mitt Romney’s disastrous interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier the other day confirmed that Romney really doesn’t take well to combat. He’s thin-skinned, can’t take a punch, and comes across as whiny and entitled. Newt, by contrast, is a fighter. He attacks Obama and Democrats in ways that appeal to the conservative id and have the sort of vaguely intellectual air about them that might appeal to Ailes. He describes Obama as a “food stamp president,” dissects his “Kenyan” and “anti-colonial” worldview, and warns darkly of the Dems’ “secular socialist machine. In other words, he’s great cable TV!
I don’t have any idea how Ailes’ thoughts about electability, or anything else, figure into any decisions about whether to swing behind Newt. But you can clearly see the temptation here.