CNN's conservative 'Hail Mary' pass

CNN is struggling. The news and opinion channel, launched in 1980, has seen its all-important primetime ratings steadily erode since the creation of its primary competitor, the Fox News Channel, in 1996. Long gone are the days when CNN was the only game in town and had a monopoly when it came to 24-hour coverage of the news and issues that affect Americans.

The decline in viewership of CNN has been arguably due to its left-leaning take on news and its leftist political commentary. CNN officials have consistently denied that the network is biased to the left, but a recent announcement appears to confirm that the network acknowledges its leftist ways and realizes its need to move politically to the right in order to end its rating hemorrhage.

On Thursday, CNN announced that it is adding three new commentators to its political team, as it gears up for coverage of the 2012 elections. One of the three additions, Cornell Belcher, is from the ideological left. Mr. Belcher, who runs a research and consulting firm in Washington D.C., worked in the Obama presidential campaign and also served as a pollster for the Democratic National Committee. He's also spent time working for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

However, unlike what we might expect from CNN, he is the only new hire that is from the political left.

The other two additions hail from the conservative side of the ideological spectrum. Will Cain, host of "Off the Page" at, joins the political group at CNN. In addition to his contributions at, Cain is frequently seen on CNN's network enemy, the Fox News Channel, and owns a Hispanic media group, Quince Media. It's the Hispanic connection that CNN is likely to exploit, given the increase of the Hispanic voting power due to the increase in the Hispanic population. Nonetheless, you don't contribute to National Review without being a conservative and therefore CNN knows it is getting a right thinker.

Solidifying CNN's rightward shift was the announcement that it is adding conservative talk-show host Dana Loesch to its political team. Ms. Loesch, who has Tea Party roots in St. Louis, hosts a conservative talk show on 97.1 FM Talk in the Gateway City. The popularity of her show has increased such that the radio station has pushed Loesch to the 3pm Eastern Time slot, previously occupied by the syndicated talk show of none other than Sean Hannity-bumping Hannity's show to a recorded version in the evening.

Loesch has developed a reputation for being strongly opinionated and is one of the rising stars among female conservatives and conservatives overall.

The fascinating aspect of this announcement is that this is essentially an admission by the folks at CNN that the network does in fact lean to the left and that it needs to move to the right, by adding conservative talkers, in order to increase its ratings.

Both Cain and Loesch are relatively young, which could indicate that CNN executives realize that the network has little chance of pulling in the 50-65 year old demographic group and instead is focusing on Generation X and Y. Specifically, conservatives and independents from that demographic group may be the primary target.

However, there is the chance that the addition of two conservative talkers could backfire for CNN if both Loesch and Cain are more than just token conservatives on a panel discussing the issues. The brash take that they, certainly Loesch, will take on the issues, could upset the current left-leaning viewers who expect a certain and consistent ideological take on political and social issues.

It's a big risk and potentially a huge shift for CNN. Whether it is a success may very well depend on how much conservative talk CNN executives are really willing to allow on their network. If Loesch and Cain are given free reign to speak their minds, then maybe the network succeeds in this endeavor to attract more conservatives and independents to its network. We shall see...

Chad Stafko is a writer and political consultant living in the Midwest. He can be reached at