Dobbs Is Advertising for Himself


By: Wall Street Journal

By JOHN FUND
November 15

Lou Dobbs for President? Don’t laugh. After months of telling reporters that he “absolutely” would not consider leaving his highly-rated CNN show in which he crusades against free trade and illegal immigration, Mr. Dobbs posted a commentary on his Web site last week predicting a surprise new presidential candidate in 2008. The mystery candidate is an “independent populist . . . who understands the genius of this country lies in the hearts and minds of its people and not in the prerogatives and power of its elites.”

Friends of Mr. Dobbs say he is seriously contemplating a race for the first time, although it’s still unlikely. They spin a scenario under which the acerbic commentator would parachute into the race if Michael Bloomberg, the New York billionaire and favorite of East Coast elites, enters the field as an independent. With Hillary Clinton continuing to score badly in polls in the categories of honesty and integrity, and with the public’s many doubts about Rudy Giuliani and other GOP contenders, Mr. Bloomberg may well see an opportunity to roil the political waters by entering the race late. If so, Mr. Dobbs then sees a niche for a “fourth-party” candidate who could paint the three other contenders as completely out of touch.

His playbook would be similar to that of Ross Perot in 1992, who didn’t enter the presidential race until the major parties began holding their primaries but quickly shot up to 25% in many polls.

Similarly, Mr. Dobbs could leverage his name ID and popularity to secure a place on 50 state ballots and generate a mountain of free publicity.

“No one, seemingly, is listening to the average-but-angry voter,” notes the Boston Phoenix. “So an independent populist-style candidacy could fill a huge vacuum.” Mr. Dobbs, who has written best-selling books deploring the government’s “war on the middle class,” would be a natural fit in this campaign playing the role of the anchorman in the 1970s movie “Network,” who bellowed, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Mr. Dobbs himself once told me that “Q” ratings that measure the popularity of media personalities found that no other media figure was more respected across the board by Democrats, Republicans and Independents. He claimed he was striking a chord with the broad middle class that transcended ideology. I think his ratings may also have something to do with picking a couple of hot-button issues that are easily demagogued, but don’t be surprised if you hear more rumors about a Dobbs candidacy. Even if he doesn’t enter the race, any such discussion would serve to boost his ratings.

Write to John Fund at john.fund@wsj.com.

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