Wednesday, October 21, 2009


On the right-wing message boards, they're already picking up on this Washington Post story about Sarah Palin's Oprah interview, even though the author of the piece, Lisa de Moraes, makes it fairly clear that the wingers' belief isn't quite accurate:

Oprah Winfrey, on a campaign to climb back from last season's ratings slump, will attempt to kiss and make up with conservative viewers on Nov. 16 when she has Sarah Palin on her syndicated talk show....

She's going whole hog this season to try to recover from the ratings tumble she took last season when her audience slid to under 7 million viewers. And, during one awful week in July, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" suffered its smallest ratings since its debut way back in 1985.

Industry navel gazers speculated Oprah had turned off some of her conservative viewers -- or, more accurately, they had turned her off -- when she not only endorsed then presidential candidate Barack Obama but even campaigned for him....

Yes, her ratings did go down 7% last year (though she continued to be the top daytime talk-show host on TV). But so did a lot of other people's:'s not just her. "Live with Regis and Kelly" had the same 7 percent decline last season. Shows with Jerry Springer, Maury Povich and Martha Stewart all had double-digit declines.

The right took all the credit for Oprah's ratings slide -- but this year she's staged a lovely comeback without right-wingers, thank you:

Nielsen ratings released Tuesday for that first week show numbers for "Oprah" up 30 percent compared with the same week a year ago. With a 6.1 household rating, it enjoyed a 144 percent edge over second-place "Dr. Phil" at 2.5. In fact, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" wasn't just the No. 1 syndicated daytime talk show for the week, it was the top show in all of syndication for the first time since November 2005, topping "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy."

In the WaPo, de Moraes has the real explanation:

... Oprah has largely abandoned her whole aspirational programming mantra this season and gone in for the more purely commercial.

That has translated into the longest-two-day-interview-ever with Whitney Houston to kick off Houston's latest comeback attempt; Oprah's deliciously detailed interview with Erin Andrews, the ESPN reporter who was unknowingly videotaped nude in a hotel room by some stalker guy; and her highly touted, things-could-get-rough, face-to-face meeting between former world champion boxers Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield -- their first meeting since Tyson bit off part of Holyfield's ear during a 1997 WBA heavyweight title fight.

And now, add to that list Palin...

It surely can't hurt for Oprah to try to mend fences with the right. But booking Palin is at least as much about landing a really big, controversial, ratings-grabbing name as it is about kissing up to Palin's base. That's what this is all about. So, righties, don't flatter yourselves.


Also on the subject of Palin, I don't know why Nate Silver's partner Tom Schaller thinks she won't run in 2012. I suspect it's because he's thinking logically, like a pollster:

... some candidates who run and lose still gain because they emerge as national figures. But Palin already achieved that status in 2008; her marketability is secure, especially given that she presently has a book that rose to the top of the Amazon rankings before it was even available for (non-advance) purchase. (As of this writing it ranks #2.) Palin's star burns bright enough that only a successful bid for the nomination would brighten it, while a failed bid might diminish it.

... the opportunity costs of running seem to me higher for her than not running....

To explain why I think she'll go for the biggest brass ring regardless of any possible "opportunity costs," I could insert some "Sarah Palin, attention junkie" snark here, but really, she's not all that much worse than a lot of other people who run for president even though everyone on earth knows they don't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning nomination or election. (Hello, Christopher Dodd.) Really, what else is the point of her recent career arc (for want of a better expression), except clearing time to prepare for a 2012 run?

OK-- she trails Huckabee and Romney in a Rasmussen poll. Well, she probably thinks her book tour, like Obama's, could be a game-changer. (She may not be crazy to think that.) And while I agree that Huckabee has more credibility with the Christian right, as Romney does with Republicans who want at least some vague appearance of seriousness in their nominee, we in the Lower 48 still haven't seen Palin go negative on a fellow Republican -- it could get ugly, and she may be counting on an ability to run a really nasty campaign as her best hope to beat back her chief rivals.

I have no doubt that she's running. I'm a lot less sure than I've been that she's in a good position to win the nomination (no way in hell will she win the general election), but I'm sure she's going for it.

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