Would more House Republicans rather have John Boehner's job or Sean Hannity's? How many Republican presidential candidates would rather be in a Fox News studio than the White House? The wave of stunt candidates so far -- Donald Trump, Herman Cain -- and those who have opted out of the race to keep their TV gigs -- Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin -- suggests the answer is a non-zero number. Even seemingly serious establishment candidate Tim Pawlenty has reportedly hit up Roger Ailes for a post-campaign contract (Ailes shot him down.) If the GOP's presidential circus this year has taught us anything it's the allure of conservative media over Republican politics, and media seems to be winning.
Tea Partiers have two career tracks: get elected or become a pundit. And it often seems like they're using one to audition for the other. Louisiana Rep. Tom Graves, whom his local newspaper describes as a guy with "a far noisier, more peppery style, [who has] proven quite adept at drawing free media attention," is one of the House freshmen who, as we noted earlier, House Speaker John Boehner is having a hard time controlling, largely because the top Republican on Capitol Hill doesn't have much to offer him. Graves, of course, is a popular guest on Fox.
Donald Trump scored a regular spot on Fox & Friends by claiming his researchers had found evidence Obama might not have been born in America. He's not a big fundraiser, he's not a policy wonk, and the majority of Americans don't like him, but candidate after candidate has lined up to meet with him in Manhattan, not some farm in Iowa. Sarah Palin, too, pretended to run for president for months, only to opt to keep her day job as paid TV analyst, which she said would leave her "unshackled." Mike Huckabee, who was in the top two in national polls for the first half of the year, decided to stay on the network having just built a nice mansion for himself in Florida. Fox cancelled Rick Santorum's Fox contract when he started running for president, but given that Santorum lost his last election in 2006, it might be nice to get that job back once he loses this one too. Michele Bachmann rose to prominence with her many cable news interviews, but in recent months, she's been undone by her own unscriptedness, implying vaccines cause mental retardation just because a woman walked up to her and told her so. That might be something a conservative talk show host can get away with, but much harder on the campaign trail.
And then there's Herman Cain. He's going through a crisis of seriousness despite ascent in the polls, in no small part because he seems more interested in selling books than building a political organization that can win elections. At least, as he told Businessweek's Joshua Green, he's not being greedy about it. "I'm still doing paid speeches," Cain told Green, "But I have not raised my prices. This economy's on life support, so I'm very mindful of those companies that would like to have me come and speak. But I'm not gonna take advantage of my newfound popularity just to put more dollars in my pocket." Yet!
Is it any wonder why the only guy who seems to want the GOP's nomination more than he wants a timeslot on Fox News is the one who's already too rich to care about Roger Ailes's money?