HAS ROGER AILES BEEN PLAYING 11-DIMENSIONAL CHESS WITH US?
I don't know if this is by accident or design -- I assume it's mostly accident -- but poll after poll right now shows Mitt Romney with a big lead in the GOP presidential race, while Republican poll respondents increasingly say they want someone who can win the general election, even if that candidate isn't ideologically pure. This seems, to a great extent, to be the result of a Roger Ailes media strategy that appeared to be leading to a very different outcome.
Obviously, maintaining Fox as a 24-hour evils-of-Obama channel has help helped give Republican voters a passionate desire to drive the president out of office. But I've been assuming that Fox's promotion of hot-button-pushing candidates and wannabes -- Palin, Trump, Cain -- and relative indifference to Romney was likely to lead to excessive primary-voter purism. That doesn't seem to be the case.
If you wanted to get conspiratorial about it, you'd suspect that Ailes is pushing ill-informed, unelectable, foot-in-mouth types like Palin, Trump, and Cain precisely because he wants them to be the embodiment of anti-Romneyism -- you'd say that the message he wants to send is "You're looking for pure? This is pure. If this is what you want running against that slick guy from Chicago, be my guest." I don't really think it's calculated -- but I think that may have been the effect on GOP voters. It really might be that they're crazy, but not all that crazy. They want to win, and they're sorting the candidates into two piles: emotional satisfying losers and the one guy who, while not emotionally satisfying on a day-to-day basis, can give them what they ultimately want.
Something that may really be calculation on the part of Ailes is the apparent downplaying of the drive to repeal the health care bill -- in my lurkings in Murdoch Land, I've noticed over the past few months that the health care has been back-burnered as a story. That may be a deliberate attempt to help Romney -- or health care may be legitimately played out as a story, even on the right. Either way, I think that's helping Romney.
And Ailes may very well think Romney is a likely nominee and may not want to put him in too tight a Fox bear hug, in the hope that swing voters won't be alienated. Or there may not be any calculation involved in that, either. Regardless, that could be helping Romney in general election polls.
In any case, it's all good news for John McCa-- er, Mitt Romney. Really. And regrettably.