Washington Prowler

The Right in Big Demand

MSNBC's Savage Side. Plus John Edwards: Out with the old.

By 3.3.03

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MSNBC'S SAVAGE SIDE
MSNBC executives can deny it all they want, but they are definitely looking to cut into Fox News's perceived monopoly of "conservative" viewers. On Saturday, the NBC-controlled cable net will air a show featuring San Francisco-based talk radio host Michael Savage.

Meanwhile they mull how best to utilize former Republican House leader Dick Armey in their programming.

But it isn't just in front of the camera that MSNBC is looking to change its point of view. In the past month, the cable channel has been interviewing and hiring researchers, story editors and producers with a conservative bent.

"We don't want people who just read the New York Times," says a New York-based MSNBC producer. "We've got plenty of those types. We want people who read and understand National Review, the Drudge Report and Lucianne.com." Understand?

"Just because we put a conservative like Savage on the air doesn't mean we're going to win any more ratings points," says the producer. "We have to develop stories and issues-coverage that a right-leaning viewer wants to watch."

IN WITH THE NEW
Sen. John Edwards has apparently decided he doesn't need the two men most credited for his political successes, and is instead going with a political team almost wholly made up of Clinton-Gore staffers for his presidential run.

That became clear with the announcement that Steve Jarding would not be joining Edwards' campaign in even an advisory capacity. Earlier Edwards had passed over Jarding and hired Nick Baldick, who had overseen Al Gore's New Hampshire and Florida campaigns in 2000.

Jarding has spent the last year helping direct Edwards' PAC, the American Optimists, along with David Saunders (we'd use his nickname "Mudcat," but we're told that his mother appreciates occasionally seeing his name in print without the colorful moniker). Both men are credited with having steered Edwards, then a political neophyte, to an upset win over incumbent Sen. Lauch Faircloth in 1998. The strategy, which Edwards and other Democrats are attempting to build on in their presidential runs, was in cultivating support among rural voters who traditionally voted Republican. Gov. Mark Warner used a similar campaign techniques to win his race in 2002 in Virginia.

"It's surprising to me that he wouldn't stick with the people who got him this far," says a Democratic National Committee staffer. "Obviously you need to have people with national campaign experience. But those two guys were so elemental to Edwards' success. It's just odd."

Edwards has now surrounded himself with retreads from the Clinton-Gore campaign wars. Besides Baldick, these include David Ginsberg, Gore's research director in 2000, Jonathan Prince, Clinton speechwriter, and Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton's deputy press secretary.

It's not clear why Edwards moved away from his political roots, and it was unclear if Saunders and Jarding would continue much longer with the American Optimists PAC. Jarding had been talking to Edwards about a role in the campaign, but not in a capacity where he would have had any stated authority over any one area. It was also thought, according to once Edwards staffer, to be a role that might be filled by political consultant Bob Shrum, but he's run off to work for John Kerry.

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