Fox News contributor John Bolton will be appearing in the early Republican presidential primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire in the coming weeks while he's "considering" a presidential run. Bolton has already set up a political operation through two political action committees. Fox previously severed ties with Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson because they were getting too serious about exploring runs for president.
Bolton is the quintessential Fox News candidate. He was never elected to office, and left the Bush administration nearly a decade ago. Yet he's stayed visible with Republican primary voters through his frequent paid appearances on their favorite network.
A January 22 press release from Bolton's political action committee, Bolton Super PAC, stated he will speak tomorrow at the Iowa Freedom Summit, which "will bring together conservative activists in advance of Iowa's first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses." The Iowa event, hosted by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), features numerous other potential 2016 contenders. On February 2, he will return to New Hampshire to speak at a breakfast event.
The Washington Examiner reported on January 5 that a source "who works at Fox News" said "Bolton may be next" to leave the network to run for president. The source added that Bolton "just wants to stay at Fox as long as possible."
Robert Costa, while at National Review Online, reported in June 2013 that Bolton was setting up tours of early primary states, organizing meetings with party leaders, and launching "a few related groups that will help elevate his argument and his national profile." Costa reported months later that Bolton "has called veteran Republican strategists and friends from the Bush years, informally pitching them on what he envisions as a policy-driven, hawkish campaign. Most of the people on the other side of the line are surprised, even shocked, to hear that Bolton, a no-nonsense, private man, is serious."
How long will the press remain allergic to Hillary Clinton polling data?
It's weird, right? For decades, pundits and reporters have worshiped at the altar of public polling, using results as tangible proof that certain political trends are underway, as well as to keep track of campaign season fluctuations. And that's even truer in recent years with the rise of data journalism. Crunching the political numbers has been elevated to a new and respected art form.
But that newsroom trend seems to be losing out to another, more powerful force as the 2016 cycle gears up. No longer viewing their job as reporting the lay of the campaign land, more and more journalists seem to have embraced the idea that their role is to help tell a compelling story, even if that means making the narrative more interesting, or competitive, than it really is.
The press "desperately wants to cover some Democratic story other than the Clinton Coronation," Bloomberg's David Weigel reported last year. NBC's Chuck Todd conceded it's the Beltway "press corps" that's suffers from so-called Clinton fatigue. The Atlantic's Molly Ball was among those suggesting that Clinton's candidacy is boring and that the American people are already "tired" of the former Secretary of State.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll this week provided little in terms of narrative excitement, but it was newsworthy nonetheless. It showed Clinton with a commanding 15-point lead over former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and a 13-point lead over former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, two of the best-known Republicans considering White House runs.
Nobody should think that polling results 20-plus months before an election signals certainty. But in terms of context, when the Washington Post and ABC began hypothetical polling in 2011 for Obama's re-election run, its survey showed the president enjoyed a four point lead of Romney at the time. (Obama went on to win by four points.) Today at a similar juncture, Clinton's lead over Romney stands at an astounding 15 points.
And so what kind of media response did the Clinton poll produce this week? Mostly shrugs; the press didn't seem to care. The morning the poll was published, NBC's daily political tip sheet, First Read's Morning Clips, omitted any reference to Clinton's enormous advantage in their laundry list of must-read articles for the day. On cable news, the coverage was minimal. Or put it this way, CNN mentioned the Clinton poll once yesterday, while CNN mentioned "Tom Brady" nearly 100 times, according to TVeyes.com.
"Clinton Enjoys Enormous Lead" is just not a headline the press wants to dwell on. So polling data is often tossed in the dustbin, clearing the way for pundits and reporters to form whatever storyline they want about Clinton and her possible 2016 run. (Hint: She's in trouble! Her book tour was a "disaster"!)
Five years after the Supreme Court opened the floodgates of campaign spending with its Citizens United decision, top newspapers in the three states with the most expensive judicial campaigns, Ohio, Alabama, and Texas, have largely failed to connect Citizens United with major changes in these races. The influx of money into state judicial elections following the decision has accelerated negative advertisements and campaign financing that may influence judges' decisions.
Fox News established close ties with Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, as each used one another to amplify smears against the Obama administration related to the Benghazi attacks in 2012. Now Graham is cashing in the credibility and profile Fox and Benghazi helped him build, announcing he's exploring a run for president in 2016.
This January marks the fifth anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 Supreme Court case that expanded the idea of "corporate personhood" by ruling that the First Amendment protects a corporation's right to make unlimited expenditures in support of political candidates as a form of speech. Network news coverage of its legal impact, however, has largely ignored how the Supreme Court continues to aggressively expand the decision.
This expansion of corporate rights has wide-ranging consequences, even outside of the context of campaign finance deregulation. The court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, for example, seemed to embrace the idea that corporations are capable of morally objecting to contraception coverage, co-opting yet another constitutional right -- that of religion -- that had previously been reserved for people, not businesses.
In terms of election law, the conservative justices further dismantled campaign finance restrictions in 2014's McCutcheon v. FEC, which struck down aggregate campaign donation limits and allowed wealthy donors to contribute money to a virtually unlimited number of candidates and political parties. The court will hear yet another campaign finance case on January 20 called Williams-Yulee v. the Florida Bar, which could strike down a Florida rule that prohibits judicial candidates from directly soliciting money from donors -- a rule that was put in place in response to a serious corruption scandal that resulted in the resignations of four Florida Supreme Court justices.
Yet despite the cascade of decisions from conservative justices intent on dismantling campaign finance regulations and rewriting corporate rights -- and the majority of Americans who support a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United -- the media have largely underreported this story.
Here are four graphics that illustrate this failure.
On Fox, Bill O'Reilly excused likely presidential candidate and Fox favorite Dr. Ben Carson's recent controversial comparison of Islamic State militants to American patriots, and allowed Carson to double down on his comparison.
On January 15, Ben Carson likened American patriots to Islamic State militants in a speech at the Republican National Committee's (RNC) winter meeting. Carson equated the mentality of American patriots who were willing to die for their beliefs to those who fight for the Islamic State, asserting that "They got the wrong philosophy, but they're willing to die for what they believe, while we are busily giving away every belief and every value for the sake of political correctness." Carson's remarks were subsequently met with criticism.
On the January 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor host Bill O'Reilly excused Carson's controversial comparison, allowing him to double down and claimed the media had taken him "out of context." Carson insisted that he was "not saying that as a comparison between our patriots and ISIS" but that pre-revolutionary militiamen "had conviction and believed in what they were doing to the point that they were willing to die for it" much like Islamic State militants. Carson added a "warning" that like American patriots and Islamic State fighters, "we have to change" our "process of giving away all of our beliefs for the sake of political correctness." O'Reilly reassured Carson that he should not "worry about the liberal media" because "they're never going to give you a shot":
O'REILLY: Now, what did you tell the GOP in San Diego?
CARSON: I told them a lot of things. The funny thing... is I was talking about the pre-revolutionary days and how our bunch of rag-tag militia men defeated the most powerful empire on earth and how they were able to do that. Because they had conviction and believed in what they were doing to the point that they were willing to die for it. And I said, fast forward to today, and you have ISIS. And, you know, they have the wrong philosophy completely, totally disagree with them. But they also have strong conviction and are willing to die for what they believe and we at the same time are in the process of giving away all of our beliefs for the sake of political correctness and I'm saying that as a warning we have to change that. Not saying that as a comparison between our patriots and ISIS, which I've said at the time. I said, the liberal media will of course take that out of context.
O'REILLY: Well, yeah, don't worry about the liberal media, they're never going to give you a shot.
From the January 16 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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"In American politics, there's a sense you want to be new. You don't want to be too familiar. You want to be something fresh. You don't want to be something old and stale." Karl Rove discussing Hillary Clinton on Fox News, May 26, 2014.
Mitt Romney's reemergence as a possible top-tier Republican contender for the 2016 White House race has created an awkward situation for some Republicans and conservative commentators who have been dwelling on Hillary Clinton's age in recent months. The development also poses a potentially thorny issue for journalists in terms of how they treat male and female politicians.
To date, Republicans have been eager to highlight Clinton's age. "Republican strategists and presidential hopefuls, in ways subtle and overt, are eager to focus a spotlight on Mrs. Clinton's age," the New York Times reported in 2013. Just this week, conservative Washington Post contributor Ed Rogers mocked Clinton for being stuck in a cultural "time warp," circa the "tie-dye" 1960s.
So why the newfound awkwardness for spotlighting Clinton's age? Because Mitt Romney's the same age as Hillary Clinton. They're both 67 years old. (Actually, Romney's older than Clinton by seven months.)
The fact that early polling suggests the possible Republican front runner is the same age as Clinton raises interesting questions for the political press, which has carved out plenty of time and space in recent years to analyze the question of Clinton's age and to repeat Republican allegations that she might be too old for the job of president. Going forward, will the same press corps devote a similar amount of time and space asking the same questions about Romney? And if not, why not? (A recent Boston Globe article actually positioned Romney's age as a plus for the Republican: "Supporters have also noted that Romney would be 69 years old in 2016 -- the same age as Reagan when he was sworn into his first term.")
From the January 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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On January 20, the day before the five-year anniversary of Citizens United, the Supreme Court will hear yet another case that could roll back campaign finance restrictions, this time for judicial elections. Here is a media guide to some of the legal briefs filed by experts in that case, Williams-Yulee v. the Florida Bar, which warn that allowing judges to solicit campaign donations directly is a recipe for disaster.
As Mitt Romney is reportedly considering a third presidential run, several conservative media figures are calling foul, labeling the idea "too stupid" and suggesting another Romney bid would be "preposterous."
After repeatedly claiming he was done with running for president, last Friday Romney apparently reversed course, telling a group of Republican donors in New York City, "I want to be president." Since then, Romney's team has reportedly been working "to reassemble his national political network."
As part of his efforts to kickstart another run, Romney reportedly reached out to several conservative media figures.
According to The Washington Post, he recently invited Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham to his ski home to discuss "politics and policy," and also made phone calls to CNN analyst Newt Gingrich and Fox News contributor Scott Brown. In a subsequent appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, Ingraham initially told viewers that between Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Romney, her support would "probably be a tie between Romney and Walker." Pressed by O'Reilly, she added, "I'll just say Romney because he's been through the grist mill before." (Ingraham explained that Romney had made her and her daughter "cocoa and soup" when she visited his ski house.)
During an appearance on Fox News' Your World, Brown said that when Romney recently called him, "I encouraged Mitt to run." Brown told Fox News viewers that Romney "was right" on a variety of issues and that he "absolutely" wants Romney to join the race.
But not everyone in the conservative movement is as supportive.
In an article for the New York Times, reporter Jonathan Martin writes that despite the "excitement among his loyalists in the Republican donor class" for another Romney run, "interviews with more than two dozen Republican activists, elected officials and contributors around the country reveal little appetite for another Romney candidacy."
Romney also faces a hurdle in several prominent conservative media figures and outlets that are less than enthusiastic about the idea of another Romney run.
After a long period of dishonestly flacking for Mitt Romney, Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin appears to have given up on him and is urging him not to run for president a third time.
In two recent blog posts, Rubin reacts negatively to the news that Romney is considering running for president in 2016. She writes that "another Romney run is preposterous" and that Romney donors and advisers pushing for a run "might want to rethink what they are doing."
As New York's Jonathan Chait points out, "Jennifer Rubin, the political commentator most consistently loyal to Romney in the last cycle, has turned against him."
During the 2012 campaign, nobody stuck by Romney like Rubin.
She hailed Romney's convention speech as proof "he can rise to an occasion," said he was "more forthcoming on immigration" than President Obama and described Romney's campaign team as "skilled." She said the presidential debates "recast the race and vaulted Mitt Romney into a position to win the race."
Of course, when the campaign was over and Romney had lost, Rubin wrote a post that revealed she knew how dishonest she had been all along, admitting that the "convention speech was a huge missed opportunity," describing the communications team as "the worst of any presidential campaign I have ever seen" and that Romney needed "more than a good month" on the campaign trail "to be successful."
Rubin appears to be positioning herself to be a booster for former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who announced that he is exploring a presidential run. Rubin said "Bush's experience and inside knowledge of his father's and brother's campaigns may be an unappreciated asset" and described a Spanish-language video on his PAC's website as "quintessential Bush -- upbeat, policy-oriented and, yes, conservative."
Considering her track record with Romney, how can we believe what she's saying now?
This week marks the release of Florida Senator Marco Rubio's new book, American Dreams, which political observers point out "just happens to coincide with the start of the presidential election cycle."
As Rubio weighs a 2016 presidential run, his new book reportedly focuses on "outlining policy prescriptions on a range of subjects" and fearmongering about how electing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "would be a death blow to the American Dream."
Rubio's rise from Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives to U.S. Senator in the thick of a potential presidential campaign is thanks in no small part to Fox News. For years, the network has helped bolster his political career by fawning over him, including touting him as a vice presidential pick for former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Erick Erickson, the RedState.com editor who is now a contributor at the network, put Rubio on the political map when he endorsed Rubio's 2010 Senate bid at a time when the candidate was floundering in the GOP primary polls. Fox News political analyst Karl Rove also played a key role in Rubio's ascension, providing establishment support when he threw the weight of his Crossroads political groups behind Rubio's Senate candidacy.
While Rubio's immigration reform stance has since ruffled a lot of conservative feathers -- including some people on Fox -- he nonetheless has been the beneficiary of a major career boost from the conservative network.
Fox News is already helping Rubio promote his book and plug his 2016 aspirations. Rubio kicked off his book tour with a friendly appearance on Hannity the night before the book's release. Sean Hannity previewed the interview by telling viewers that Rubio "is looking, well, awfully presidential these days with the release of a brand new book that's just out today, American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone."
Below is a post first published by Media Matters in 2013 highlighting Fox News' history of cheerleading for Rubio.
The Washington Post reported that Mitt Romney recently wooed conservative firebrand Laura Ingraham in preparation for his potential 2016 presidential campaign. Ingraham is a right-wing media darling known for her fringe rhetoric against Democrats and undocumented immigrants, whom she has referred to as invaders who would turn the country into a "hellhole."
The Post reported that as one of his moves laying the groundwork for another potential presidential run, Romney welcomed Ingraham "to his ski home in Deer Valley, Utah" where they "spent more than one hour discussing politics and policy." Ingraham told the Post that Romney "was relaxed, reflective and was interested in hearing my thoughts on the American working class."
The conservative pundit regularly pushes fringe rhetoric on her radio program and as a contributor to ABC News and Fox News. She has repeatedly mocked Hispanics for how they speak; called American children of undocumented immigrants "anchor fetuses"; smeared Obama's immigration policies as comparable to "spousal abuse"; and claimed Obama's "core ties to the African continent" undermine public safety on Ebola.
Ingraham has lambasted potential Romney primary opponent Jeb Bush since the former Florida governor announced he was exploring a run for president. During a January 8 appearance on Fox Business's Imus in the Morning, Ingraham said she's not supporting anyone for president but "I have been fairly clear in one proclamation that Jeb Bush is not the right choice for the Republican Party." She later added that "I've always liked Romney. I don't think he's going to run ... I think if you are going to run against the Bush machine, you're going to have to be willing to really take him down. And I think a lot of these people are afraid of taking on the old Bush record."
Ingraham made waves during the summer when she heavily supported tea party Republican David Brat in his underdog victory against Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
In 2006, President George W. Bush invited Ingraham, along with other conservative pundits, to the White House to lobby them on Iraq and immigration reform. The New York Times reported that "Ingraham, who recently went bike riding with the president, has continued to complain about federal spending, progress in Iraq and, lately, the Republican leadership's handling of the [Mark] Foley scandal."
Romney also called Fox News contributor Scott Brown and CNN analyst Newt Gingrich to discuss his potential campaign, according to the Post.
From the January 12 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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