By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
6:19 PM EDT, October 22, 2013
Gov. Martin O'Malley is supposed to be Maryland's political TV star. Just ask him.
But it was Congressman Andy Harris who drew the bigger national audience in his appearance on CNN's "Crossfire."
When O'Malley "debated" Texas Gov. Rick Perry Sept. 18 on "Crossfire," 329,000 viewers tuned in.
When Harris appeared Monday on the CNN show with Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America, an organization trying to enroll people in Obamacare, the telecast drew 450,000 viewers.
Before Harris starts thinking he's the most telegenic conservative since Ronald Reagan, or O'Malley sinks into a depression over the feared loss of his TV mojo, there's a major factor contributing to those audiences: the news flow of the day.
Monday was a good night for cable news because of President Barack Obama's late afternoon appearance to talk about the deeply flawed rollout of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a Obamacare).
Everyone's cable news numbers were up in the early evening.
Proportionally, the "Crossfire" show with Harris Monday did no better than O'Malley's in September. Both finished a deep third behind MSNBC and Fox.
On Sept. 18, 587,000 persons watched Al Sharpton on MSNBC, while 1.66 million tuned to Fox for an interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
On Monday, an audience of 756,000 watched Sharpton on MSNBC, while 2.14 million tuned to Bret Baier on Fox.
"Crossfire" also finished third among the cable news channel in the key 25-54 demographic with both Harris and O'Malley.
Since "Crossfire" was dealing with the same topic as Obama's appearance on Monday, it should have done better.
At least that's part of the premise on which this pilloried program from CNN is based.
Still, I think Harris might be a bit better on TV than some of his critics think. He certainly did OK Monday in his sparring match with co-host Stephanie Cutter, a former Obama adviser-turned-lobbyist and PR consultant.
Speaking of Cutter, remember how Obama promised to end the revolving door between the White House and K Street? Now, it's the White House, K Street and CNN.
Not exactly the trinity I'd expect what was once the strongest news brand on cable TV to be part of. But CNN did that to itself with this show and its selection of compromised hosts.
All Nielsen ratings via TVNewser.
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