Lou Dobbs Is Ready for Prime Time

In his book, Mr. Dobbs upbraids the cable news networks, including his own, for their daytime obsessions with “car chases, petrochemical plant and factory fires, and train derailments”— as well as with Anna Nicole Smith. Had he ever used his growing clout at CNN to advocate internally for more serious news coverage network-wide? “I try and demonstrate by example the tenets of the craft that serve us well,” said Mr. Dobbs.

So: How much anti-elitism can viewers take?

Reese Schonfeld, the co-founder of CNN and nascent cable news blogger, called Mr. Dobbs somewhat of a “one-trick pony,” but said he had little danger of wearing out his welcome as long as concerns about immigration remain high. “He’s a very good broadcaster. If he sees enthusiasm failing, he may be able to switch to something else,” said Mr. Schonfeld. (Mr. Dobbs has done so once before: Immigration has essentially replaced corporate outsourcing—a subject to which he now devotes far less time—as his nightly bête noire.) “After all,” Mr. Schonfeld continued, “who would have thought that a solid, well-respected Wall Street guy would switch all of a sudden to a populist, anti-immigration nativist?”

Back at the studio, Mr. Dobbs was wrapping up his inaugural 7 p.m. broadcast. Around 7:45, CNN cut to a preview of the upcoming 8 p.m. show, with temporary fill-in anchor Rick Sanchez.

Mr. Sanchez likes to remind people that he’s a Cuban immigrant, and he once challenged Mr. Dobbs’ anti-immigration line on air, leading to a heated back-and-forth. But if there was tension between the two anchors, they kept it bottled up.

“You know what I’m going to call you every time I see you in the hallways,” said Mr. Sanchez.

“You mean, besides Mr. Dobbs?” said the elder anchor.

“I’m going to call you ‘Prime Time,’” said Mr. Sanchez.

Mr. Dobbs smiled. A few seconds later, CNN cut to a commercial break. Off camera, Mr. Dobbs cocked his head and repeated the word, as if he were testing the sound of it: “Prime Time.”

Lou Dobbs Is Ready for Prime Time