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MSNBC Hires Non-Puppet Michael Steele; Roger Ailes Wants to Be GOP Puppetmaster

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Fox News’ Republican-professional commentator ranks have been thinning lately, with contributors Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum leaving to explore Presidential runs. So you’d think that Fox might be a promising perch for former GOP party chief Michael Steele. You would be wrong: the defenestrated RNC head is not an especially popular figure among the conservatives who make up much of Fox’s viewership, and today it was announced that he will be joining MSNBC, of all networks, as a commentator. An actual human, non-puppet commentator.

Of course, it’s not like MSNBC has no other Republicans in its pundit ranks, the chief example being Morning Joe’s Joe Scarborough. But it will be interesting to see if Steele presents himself as a GOP analyst/loyalist, a la Fox’s Karl Rove, or moves from his partisan past a la the TV version of Scarborough.

Meanwhile, a fascinating feature in New York magazine suggests that Fox News chief Roger Ailes has misgivings about some of the own political stars he’s helped build.

The piece argues that Ailes, a longtime GOP operative before taking over Fox News, now wants not just to influence the narrative of the presidential election but to get a candidate elected. The problem is, a number of potential candidates who got exposure through Fox are showing poor ratings. And New York quotes an Ailes associate who says that he’s less than pleased with the Republican field in general, and in particular Sarah Palin, whom the network signed to a lavish contract:

“He thinks things are going in a bad direction,” another Republican close to Ailes told me. “Roger is worried about the future of the country. He thinks the election of Obama is a disaster. He thinks Palin is an idiot. He thinks she’s stupid. He helped boost her up. People like Sarah Palin haven’t elevated the conservative movement.”

So Ailes has turned to attempting to recruit new candidates to the Republican race, including, unsuccessfully, Chris Christie and Gen. David Petraeus. Maybe they’re holding out for primetime shows on Fox instead.