Talk Radio Emerges As Real Super Tuesday Winner
Our Medium's Influence Has Never Been Greater
Regardless of what the mainstream media might have you believe, talk radio emerged as last night's biggest winner. It has nothing to do with actual election results, the medium simply has never been more influential than in 2008.
Don't take your Radio Equalizer's word for it: take a quick look at pre- and post- election coverage, it is truly difficult to find stories that don't mention talk radio. Its role has absolutely dominated discussions of this year's primary season.
One example that jumps off the page is a story written by Howard Kurtz that appeared in yesterday's Washington Post. Here's a portion of it:
Limbaugh on McCain: It's Better to Be Right All the Time
By Howard Kurtz
It may be the best sideshow in presidential politics: the nation's top radio talker trying to take down the Republican front-runner in today's Super Tuesday showdown.
Rush Limbaugh has been relentless in his criticism of John McCain, prompting suggestions that he may have to soften his stance if the Arizona senator wins the nomination and faces off against Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. But if that happens, Limbaugh said in an interview over the weekend, he would rather see the Democrats win the White House.
"If I believe the country will suffer with either Hillary, Obama or McCain, I would just as soon the Democrats take the hit . . . rather than a Republican causing the debacle," he said. "And I would prefer not to have conservative Republicans in the Congress paralyzed by having to support, out of party loyalty, a Republican president who is not conservative."
When it comes to the McCain mutiny, Limbaugh has plenty of company on the right side of the dial. Laura Ingraham endorsed Mitt Romney last week, saying, "There is no way in hell I could pull the lever for John McCain." Sean Hannity, who also endorsed the former Massachusetts governor, regularly rips McCain. Hugh Hewitt is urging the audience for his syndicated radio show to fight for Romney against what he calls a media-generated "McCain resurrection." But with a program heard on 600 stations, including Washington's WMAL, Limbaugh is the loudest and brashest voice inveighing against the man he derides as "Saint John of Arizona."
Limbaugh dismissed the notion that a McCain victory would be a "personal setback" for him. "My success is not defined by who wins elections," he said. "Elected officials come and go. I am here for as long as I wish to stay. . . .
"Yesterday it was Limbaugh vs. [Donovan] McNabb, Limbaugh vs. Michael J. Fox. Before that it was Limbaugh vs. Bill Clinton. Tomorrow it will be Limbaugh vs. Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. And I note the media never applies this template to anyone else in media. Not to anyone in cable news, not to any of the endorsements of the major newspapers. Why are the New York Times and Washington Post not asked about the setback they both suffered when George Bush beat both their endorsed candidates in 2000 and 2004?"
Mark McKinnon, a top McCain adviser, called the criticism from Limbaugh and the other hosts "frustrating," saying: "Our question is, 'Isn't it better to get behind a Republican you may disagree with from time to time than work for an outcome that puts a Democrat in the White House with whom you will disagree all of the time?'
By the story's end, the positions of five top talk hosts had been detailed, with an emphasis on how they might impact elections. Whether they did or not is up to your interpretation, as they may have rallied behind Romney too late to change the outcome.
But what really counts is that so many people, including the mainstream media and politicians, care what talk hosts think and who they are supporting. Conflicts between talkers and candidates have recently made headlines.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of additional recent examples of talk radio as a prominent story angle in election coverage. Even today, with McCain's Super Tuesday wins in the bag, the New York Times is outlining what talkers plan as their next move. Even the overseas media grasps this concept. Meanwhile, the lefties can't stand it.
It may seem hard to believe now, but the medium's impact has often been dismissed in the past, even when it made a significant difference in the outcome. For years, media elites ignored it, feeling it would be undignified to even acknowledge talk's existence.
And finally, to those who complain that Rush Limbaugh has dominated discussions both on this site and elsewhere, don't blame the messenger: it's a testament to the power of his large audience and the influence that brings. Much of the resentment seems to come from those who haven't achieved his level of success (who has?).
Whether you like it or not, Limbaugh now leads the conservative movement and the intense media coverage is their way of recognizing that reality.
In fact, today's show may prove the most important of his entire career.
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