Mitt Romney has an uphill battle as he gets into the Fox cockpit to contest Newt Gingrich, whose cozy ties with proprietor Rupert Murdoch go back almost two decades.
“I’ll be on Fox a lot because you guys matter when it comes to Republican primary voters,” Romney tells Neil Cavuto in an interview as polls show him far behind Gingrich among Fox-watching Iowa caucus-goers.
Until he started running for President, the former Speaker was on the Fox payroll, but his shady relationship with Murdoch goes back to the 1990s when he had to return a $4.5 million book advance under pressure after it was disclosed that at the same time he had been meeting with the media mogul on legislative relief for his empire during a whirlwind of ethics violations that eventually led to Gingrich’s downfall.
In 1997, the House voted overwhelmingly (395 to 28) to reprimand him with an unprecedented $300,000 penalty, the first time in its 208-year history that the body ever disciplined a Speaker for ethical wrongdoing.
Now, with his own empire itself under pressure for ethical lapses, particularly in Great Britain, Murdoch has lost none of his appetite for playing White House kingmaker with Fox lackeys giving Romney a hard time to advance Gingrich’s fortunes.
It will be the severest test yet of Romney’s blandness as he enters the Fox lion’s den to take them on in Murdoch’s last hurrah to get a pet poodle of his own into the White House.
Will Romney be able to roar?
Update: Gingrich is champing at the bit to line up a Fox team for the White House, promising to name a fellow contributor John Bolton as Secretary of State.
Bolton, who wants to bomb everybody, would match Newt’s hair-trigger temperament perfectly.