As you probably know, Fox News employs many of the 2012 Republican presidential contenders as "contributors," which mostly means they come on the air periodically, get tossed a few softballs by a Fox host, and talk a bit about what a jerk Barack Obama is. You may have wondered, just what is this free air time worth? Media Matters does the math:

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Mike Huckabee stands out because he's got his own weekend show on the network. But it seems to me the real winner here is Rick "Man-On-Dog" Santorum, who is all but running already. Unless you're a Fox viewer, you probably haven't thought about him in quite some time. Without this gig, Santorum would have almost no ability to make anyone pay attention to him, and thus the possibility of a presidential run would be even more ridiculous than it already is. Santorum's strategy seems to be to make himself the guy conservative culture warriors should support if Sarah Palin decides not to run. It's a long shot, but it would be even longer without that $4 million in-kind contribution and the legitimacy it buys among the Republican base.

-- Paul Waldman

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