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Ed Schultz: Behind the Scenes

Posted by Kara Miller, Culture Club  March 5, 2012 08:48 AM

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ed_schultz.jpgEd Schultz isn’t the kind of guy who holds back.

A one-time pro football player, Schultz rose to prominence as liberals’ (tamer) answer to Rush Limbaugh. And in recent days, Schultz has dished up unsparing criticism of Limbaugh, saying that “this could be the beginning of the end for the man behind the golden microphone.”

But, while Schultz keeps one eye on the Limbaugh firestorm, he is also gearing up for Super Tuesday coverage on MSNBC, where, for almost three years, he has hosted “The Ed Show.” After some timeslot hopping, the hard-driving, personality-infused hour now occupies the same 8 p.m. slot held by the network’s one-time lynchpin Keith Olbermann.

I spoke with Schultz about his predictions for tomorrow, his morning reads, what birth control has done for Rick Santorum, and why Newt Gingrich is a “sly fox.”

What is coverage like at MSNBC on a big primary day? Take us behind the scenes.

Normally, about an hour before we go on the air we get a briefing from polling experts, and we get a pretty good idea of the way things are going. But we’re not in a position to say anything.

Really, for primary night, preparation is key. You have to have researched the area, the states in play, the trends, be able to put things into historical perspective. You just can’t show up and wing it. You have to come in with a few different areas where you’re rock solid in your research.

Other than that, it’s basically a crap shoot. Things unfold in front of us on the air that we have to put in perspective quickly. It’s pretty exciting to be a part of it.

So there’s a window of time when you have poll results but you can’t disclose them, since people are still voting?

We get trend information, but we don’t get rock solid information. That gives us an idea of what could unfold so we’re not completely blindsided.

With so many states in play, what do you think we’ll see tomorrow?

If you relate this to the presidential election in November, all eyes should be focused on Ohio. Ohio’s going to be very, very interesting - it’s a state that’s very concerned about the economy. I would say that’s Mitt Romney’s forte. It’s a state that’s very strong on social issues, and that, of course, is a big part of Rick Santorum’s campaign. And Ron Paul has his 10-13%.

Newt Gingrich is really pulling down Santorum’s campaign right now because if Gingrich were out of the race a lot of those votes would go to Santorum. Gingrich has gone on record to say he has to win Georgia.

I would imagine that Romney will not have any problem winning Massachusetts or Vermont. North Dakota’s going to be interesting. Could Santorum peel some votes away from Gingrich in Georgia? What is Romney’s Southern strategy? What state is he going to win?

You know, Newt Gingrich is a sly fox. He’s saying: if I don’t win in Georgia, I’m not relevant. He’s positioning himself for a big win, but he wants everyone to know that he’s really up against the wall here. It’s really interesting how he games the media.

What role does the birth control issue play here?

That issue really hurt Santorum in Michigan. He’s back now to talking about manufacturing and economic issues, and those were the issues he was talking about when he won Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado.

And then all of a sudden his campaign took a turn. He lost the Catholic vote in Michigan. He lost the women’s vote in Michigan. It can all unravel so fast on these candidates.

How do you explain the difficulties that Mitt Romney’s campaign has had? Has the media been fair to him?

I don’t think you can run for president and be a referee on the media at the same time. If you want to get in this game, you have to be prepared for everything.

What do you make of the Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren Senate race?

I guess Elizabeth Warren is a pretty good lefty. And I think there is probably a pretty good angst out there about Brown’s support and co-sponsorship of the Blunt Amendment. It seems to me that would be pretty hard to explain to half of the electorate.

I think because of her consumer protection advocacy work, the Republicans are probably pretty nervous about Elizabeth Warren getting into the Senate.

What is your day like? How do you prep for your nighttime show?

Normally I’m up about 7 a.m. and surf the Net. I pay attention to Twitter obviously. I read the New York Times, the Huffington Post. I don’t go to Politico very much. I used to, but I see a real conservative bent.

I’ll lift some weights and walk. Do that at least four times a week. I get into the office at about 11 and do the radio show from 12 to 3.

I feel like I get a good pulse from listening to callers on a national show. For example, the comments by Limbaugh [about Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke] set people on fire.

On MSNBC, I’ve done the 6 p.m., 10 p.m., and 8 p.m. Three time slots in a period of about a year. Now we’re in second place in the slot. It feels like we’re making good progress.

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About the author

Kara Miller is an Assistant Professor of English, specializing in journalism, at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. She also serves as a guest panelist on WGBH-TV's “Beat the Press” and contributes to 89.7 FM WGBH (NPR). More »

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