PJ Media

Is a Media Empire the Prerequisite to Run for President in 2012?

A Rasmussen survey of likely 2012 GOP primary voters asks: “Who would you vote for if the Republican primary were today?”

The results: Romney 20%, Huckabee 19%, Palin 19%, Gingrich 13%.

Who is the only one without a sprawling media empire? Mitt Romney — the one who has built a financial empire.

Former Governor Romney, the 2012 front-runner in numerous polls and surveys, has said, I’m not on TV that much, and that’s just fine with me and my family.”

However, he did make a rare appearance on The Tonight Show recently, and the headlines were about his Sarah Palin comments.

Perhaps Romney fears media overexposure with the long drawn-out campaign ahead.

But obviously this is not the fear of Palin, Huckabee, and Gingrich. Their extensive media empires are fueling their presidential ambitions and filling their future campaign coffers.

Which begs the question: Is a media empire a prerequisite for running for president in the age of information overload?

After all, a media empire not only helps a presidential candidate generate cash and increase name awareness. More importantly, it increases the comfort level among the voters.

It’s the political equivalent of living with someone before marrying them.

For if you watch a potential presidential candidate frequently on television, hear them on the radio, buy their books and DVDs, or connect with them through social media, you have already voted for them with your time and your money. So pulling the lever for them on Election Day is a logical extension of your established relationship.

With Huckabee, Palin, and Gingrich sucking up all the oxygen in the conservative media universe, front-runner Mitt Romney has some serious catching up to do.

Here is what he is up against:

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee has an extensive multi-platform empire showcased on his website.

It is a virtual Wal-Mart of all that is Huckabee Inc., even including merchandise.

(Hey Mike, are those hats, mugs, and shirts made in the USA or China?)

For starters there is his highly rated television show that airs Saturday and Sunday nights on the Fox News Channel. Then this past summer, Huckabee hosted a six week daily talk show pilot, a test run for future syndication that aired in seven markets.

Huckabee, a 2008 presidential candidate, winner of the Iowa caucus, and former governor of Arkansas, also has a daily radio show broadcasting three times a day, five days a week — which if you happen to miss, you can subscribe to on i-Tunes.

In print, author Huckabee has penned seven books, including his new Christmas book with an accompanying tour to AZ, CA, FL, and NJ.

And if you call now, Mike the musician will include a CD of him jamming with other artists. (Just kidding on the free CD; you have to pay for it, but the proceeds go to charity.)

On his website don’t forget to visit HuckPac, which helps Mike elect conservative candidates.

(Especially noteworthy is Huckabee’s early support of now Florida Senator-elect Marco Rubio, when the Republican establishment’s candidate of choice was Governor Charlie Crist.)

And if that wasn’t all enough, former pastor Mike Huckabee will be your Holy Land tour guide. He is leading a trip to Israel in early 2011. (Space is still available.)

Since multi-talented Mike Huckabee is already president of a vast media empire, why would he want to give it up and run for president?  Especially when running would be a deal killer for his  daily syndicated talk show. Well, maybe he won’t.

Sarah Palin

Her total media domination continues with Sarah Palin’s Alaska breaking all rating records for the November 14 premier on The Learning Channel. Palin is someone America loves to watch and her brand even extended to her daughter Bristol, who made it to the finals on Dancing with the Stars, helping boost that show’s ratings and creating voting controversy along the way.

Sarah Palin’s Alaska features eight weekly episodes. During many of those weeks Palin will be on the road promoting her second book America by Heart, which was released on November 23 amid legal controversy over leaks by Gawker Media.

Naturally her book tour takes her through the heart of Palin country with a stop in Iowa.

As of this writing, America by Heart has yet to reach #1, but expect the book to boost the coffers of her media empire, which earned Palin the #6 ranking on Newsweek’s Power Pundit list with an income of $14 million.

Her political action committee SarahPAC was extremely influential in the 2010 midterm elections and to supplement the message produces videos like the famous Mama Grizzles, which garnered much attention in the mainstream media.

The 2008 Republican VP candidate can drive the media into a frenzy with just a Facebook message. She has over 2.5 million Facebook friends and over 300,000 Twitter followers.

Clearly Palin will be a political sensation if she decides to run, which is looking more likely every day. Although many inside politics believe Palin is using 2012 as a tease to boost her book sales and increase her celebrity appeal.

Currently she trails Huckabee and Romney in Iowa according to statewide polling conducted by Representative Steve King.

Palin (like Huckabee and Gingrich) is a Fox News contributor, but all those gigs will come to a screeching halt when White House intentions are officially announced.

Will Sarah Palin leave behind her lucrative media empire for the rigors of the campaign trail?

If she soon starts building a national campaign organization, the answer is: you betcha!

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich is greeted like a rock star at every GOP rally he attends, and the activist class claims he’s the party’s sharpest mind,” according to the National Journal’s 2012 ranking of prospective GOP candidates. Gingrich’s star status is also reflected in his exploding media empire anchored at Newt.org.

His Gingrich Productions churns out DVDs with names like America at Risk, Nine Days that Changed the World, Rendezvous with Destiny, We Have the Power, and Rediscovering God in America Part I & II.

In the television arena, besides being a frequent Fox News contributor, Gingrich regularly appears on all the major network Sunday news shows, where you won’t find Palin or Huckabee.

He has written or co-written nineteen books. Gingrich also has great command of social media. He has over 1.3 million followers on Twitter, compared with just over 300,000 for Palin. However, Newt badly trails Sarah on Facebook, with just over 96,000 friends vs. over 2.5 million for Palin.

Palin also bests Gingrich on the Newsweek Power Pundit list, where he ranks #12 with income of only $5.5 million.

The Gingrich media empire has a foundation rooted in Newt’s love of policy and problem solving with organizations such as American Solutions. To address the problems of a growing and important group of Americans, Gingrich’s newest organization, The Americano, offers bilingual news and opinion celebrating Latino heritage and conservatism in America.

Obviously, The Americano is a proactive attempt by Gingrich to gather political support from Hispanics, who traditionally trend Democrat in their voting habits and now comprise 15% of the population. Every GOP candidate will need Hispanic votes to win in 2012, but Gingrich is being especially innovative by establishing The Americano and its first annual Hispanic Forum in Washington, D.C.

Certainly this former speaker of the House, whose leadership in 1994 helped capture the House of Representatives after over 40 years of Democrat rule, knows how to gain power and wield influence.

Those who have worked closely with Newt point to his ability to drive the agenda of debates with his command of every issue. This gives him a decisive advantage over the other candidates. There is no doubt Gingrich is running to win in 2012.

Expect his announcement in February 2011.

If he does manage to win the Republican nomination, one can imagine that Newt vs. Obama debates would be a Super Bowl for policy wonks.

No Empires to Call Their Own

At this point in late 2010 no one knows who is really running for the GOP nomination since no one has officially announced.  However, that National Journal presidential candidate ranking mentioned earlier lists the following names in order of most likely to gain the nomination: Romney, Pawlenty, Thune, Barbour, Huckabee, Palin, and Gingrich.

However, since none of the top four names have media empires or are media stars in the Huckabee, Palin, and Gingrich mold, we will just have to wait and see if having a pre-established media empire is a prerequisite for a successful presidential campaign run in 2012.

But one thing is for sure: sometime in 2011 there will be one, two, or maybe even three open seats at Fox News.