Obama Wins It for Wallace

Tim Russert’s Meet the Press was still No. 1 during the May sweeps week, but Chris Wallace’s Fox News Sunday got second, aided by a first-ever Obama appearance.

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That Fox News Channel matters now more than ever for campaigning Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton couldn’t have come at a better time for FNC’s top Sunday show, Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. In fact, with his news-packed shows stuffed with new Democratic arrivals to the Fox studio, he bested CBS’s Face the Nation and ABC’s This Week in the critical Washington market during the May sweeps. Sure, Tim Russert’s Meet the Press on NBC was king, but grabbing second in the D.C. market is like winning for the three other guys. We talked with the busy Wallace today, and he said that winning Washington is more than just getting bragging rights.

“Washington is probably the single most important market for a Sunday morning talk show because one of the things that the guests on these shows want to do is to reach out to the other opinion makers and their colleagues in the political world. So if you’re able to say to a guest, ‘Look, we finished second in Washington, and if you want to get your message out to people on the Hill, to people in the White House, to the opinion makers in Washington, we’re the place to do it,’ it’s a powerful argument.”

Beating Russert is a ways off, of course, but it sounds as if Wallace has Meet in his sights. “It’s tough. He’s an institution here as well as in the rest of the country,” said Wallace, who noted that unlike Fox News Sunday, Meet has helpful news show lead-ins, not the infomercials that run on many Fox stations before he goes live. “It took Meet 50 years, 60 years to get where they are. We’re the new kid on the block at 12 years, and watch us grow,” he says.

The numbers from TV Newser:

For Sunday morning shows, May sweeps include the following show-dates: April 27, May 4, May 11, and May 18

    Household ratings (Washington, D.C., market):

    -- NBC Meet the Press — 4.7
    -- Fox News Sunday — 2.1
    -- CBS Face the Nation — 1.6
    -- ABC This Week — 1.4
    Total viewers (Washington, D.C., market):
    -- NBC Meet the Press — 136,000
    -- Fox News Sunday — 61,000
    -- CBS Face the Nation — 46,000
    -- ABC This Week — 27,000 While it doesn’t look like hard work, Wallace says it’s a tough week leading up to every Sunday show. “It’s a lot of work. First of all, it’s on your mind all the time,” he says. To begin with, he has to figure out what’s the top story. Then he and his bookers have to land the kingfish interview. That whole opera came into play when, after 722 days of the Obama Watch, Obama went on FNS followed by other Democrats. And Wallace got the feeling that he’d be back. And other Democrats like him.

“What was particularly frustrating for us was that for about a year, we couldn’t play on the Democratic side because Obama, Clinton, [John] Edwards were all boycotting us, so we only had half the playing field to ourselves. And one of the nice things is that starting late winter, early spring, now the Democrats are coming on Fox,” he says.