POSTED BY MICHAEL LEARMONTH

OlbermanntcaMSNBC’s Keith Olbermann carried the flag for NBC News at TCA on Tuesday, but as usual, Fox News wasn’t far from his mind, or anyone else’s, for that matter.

Posted in the lobby was a bit of guerilla marketing that had all the hallmarks of a Fox News stunt. Someone hung a poster with the faces of all of cable news’ 8p.m. anchors PhotoShopped onto horses with the headline, “Fourth in a four-horse race,” pointing out that since June Olbermann has been finishing fourth in the 25-54 demo 24% of the time.

A sign, perhaps, of respect, and the fact that the 8 p.m. time slot is the most competitive in cable news. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly dominates, but Olbermann is up 67% in the second quarter over the same period last year, gains he freely attributes to his on-air feud with O’Reilly and his anti-Bush commentary. (Olbermann called for the resignation of President Bush and Veep Cheney the week of July 4.)

MSNBC is hoping to take his recent gains to the next level by associating him with the Campaign ’08, despite his partisan rantings. Olbermann co-anchored MSNBC’s election night coverage with Chris Matthews last fall, and the network announced he would be moderating a Democratic candidate’s forum for the AFL-CIO in Chicago on Aug. 7. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden are among the candidates who have RSVP’d for the jawboning sesh with more than 5,000 union members and their families.

Despite his animus for Fox News, Olbermann defended that network for scheduling a Democratic debate, to which Clinton, Obama and Edwards have thus far failed to commit.

“I don’t think I would be advising any of the candidates to turn down free TV time, whether its on Fox News or Al Jazeera,” he quipped.

– Michael Learmonth

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