The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

09 January 2008

Talk Hosts Find Influence Rising During Uncertain 2008 Election Cycle


Talkers Enjoy Unprecedented Influence Over Elections

More than any recent election in memory, talk radio hosts are finding themselves positioned perfectly to influence the 2008 candidate- selection process. The increased clout is part of a larger trend, one where talkers have seen their words debated on the US Senate floor, in newspapers and on television news programs.

This year, we've seen tiffs between candidates, their advisers and hosts carried out in full view of the public, harassment of personalities who are known to oppose certain contenders and ongoing speculation as to who will get the backing of key talkers.

In addition, observations of a personal nature, such as a candidate's appearance, have become hotly debated when they come from hosts. And those seeking the presidency (or their spouses) have addressed talkers by name from the trail.

Some crackpots even believe talk hosts are threatening the personal safety of presidential hopefuls.

And behind the scenes, some politicos have even asked your Radio Equalizer whether local hosts could sway primaries in key upcoming states.

At every stage of the game during Election 2008, talk radio has been right in the middle of the action.

On several sites today, there's a crazy guessing game over whether Rush Limbaugh will follow the lead of Sean Hannity and Dennis Miller in supporting Rudy Giuliani. From The Atlantic via Forbes:

After tonight, McCain will be coronated by the mainstream media. He is sure to hold his lead as the betting favorite. But watch Giuliani. Here’s a bet I will make with anyone: The two top-rated conservative radio talk hosts, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, will more or less back Giuliani, as Dennis Miller does-- explicitly-- now. That support will be as key to Giuliani as Oprah Winfrey’s support has been to Obama.

Which is to say, the mainstream media and conventional analysis will be blind to the value of such support--and so, you'll never read about it. But in a tight primary, the Limbaugh-Hannity-Miller factor could make a difference.

Do any of these people actually listen to Rush? He's a leader, not a follower and very unlikely to support Rudy or anyone else during the primaries. He's made that clear on the air.

So the big question is this: why are these hosts so much more important than in the past? Perhaps it's due to an increasing influence that comes with tenure, in additional to larger audiences, thanks to ratings growth.

Another factor is the significant level of public indecision due to wide open races with such a large number of candidates. In the confusion, listeners seem unusually open to hearing those who have strong views on the individual contenders.

While hosts might have more muscle to flex during this election cycle, they should be careful how it is used. Carelessly backing the wrong horse could undermine one's public image, should that hopeful implode on the campaign trail due to gaffes or scandal.

In addition, predictions can prove damaging, as we've seen occur with cable news pundits in recent days. Many wrote Hillary off as finished after her Iowa loss and now look like fools as her base rallied in time to save her.

By contrast, Limbaugh took the opposite view and now seems positively psychic.

Of course, there are competing voices out there also looking to carve their turf, especially in the blogosphere. But that's a topic for another post. For now, keep your eyes on the hosts and the increasing role they are playing in this campaign: there will be plenty of fireworks to come.

FOR New England regional talk radio updates, see our other site.

FOR the latest headlines, see Conservative Grapevine

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  • Con radio no longer has an influence, as evidenced by Hannity's 8 straight years of supporting Rudy. Rudy could not even beat Ron Paul in the first primary and barely beat Paul last night

    Hannity talks, America votes the opposite way!!!


    Deal with it Brain, the voices you support are the voices the American people HATE.

    The vision of Ron Paul supporters chasing Hannity up the block is the most patriotic picture I have sen in years !!

    That is patreiotism, it is time to rebel against the propagandists, the enemies of America, Hannity supports a fascist Guiliani for president, if you support a fascist, you deserve to be asssaulted by a mob of patriots, Hannity deserves citizen's arrest.

    Hannity supports an Anti-American candidate, Guiliani is an enemy, just like Bin Laden, an enemy of freedom. I hope next time Paul supporters arrest Hannity for crimes against America. Hannity backs a terrorist, Rudy is a terrorist, he hates freedom.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 09 January, 2008 15:21  

  • After people finding out that Ron Paul is a carelessly stupid newsletter editor at best, and a racist and anti-Semite at worst... Sorry, the Ron Paul Revolution is going down the drain! He won't be the nominee, and I for one am glad he isn't.

    Besides, if anyone has told some anti-Semitic sympathizer what he can do with his $10 million, it was Rudy Giuliani (after Sept. 11)suyoj. For that alone, he has earned my respect. It doesn't matter if he's the nominee, and whether Sean Hannity supports him or not.

    By Blogger newton, at 09 January, 2008 16:05  

  • hershel, If what you say is true (Deal with it Brain, the voices you support are the voices the American people HATE.) then where do the ratings come from? Just asking. And just for fun…
    1) No, there is not a conspiracy to pump up ratings. If there was, advertisers would have sued the pants off of them.
    2) No, there are smart and intelligent people who listen to these shows, not just “slack jaw yokels”
    Maybe, just maybe, you happen to have a belief set that does not match the average American. Talk to people (NOT SHOUT) with whom you disagree. Look at other view points and try to see the argument from their side (and no, pretending to be someone who wants to establish a fascist state and rule like a king does NOT count). Realize that almost everyone thinks they are doing good even when you think they are doing bad. Be a true liberal and try to empathize.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 09 January, 2008 16:07  

  • Brian,

    You are right, I have heard Rush say he does not endorse in the primary, bashing or supporting one candidate's position over the other is not endorsing.

    As to Ron Paul, his racist newsletter doesn't pass the smell test of denial.

    By Blogger 10ksnooker, at 09 January, 2008 16:15  

  • Besides, if anyone has told some anti-Semitic sympathizer what he can do with his $10 million, it was Rudy Giuliani (after Sept. 11)suyoj. For that alone, he has earned my respect. It doesn't matter if he's the nominee, and whether Sean Hannity supports him or not.


    I wouldn't be so quick to jump on the respect wagon.

    The anti-semetic sympathizer you are referencing is Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who owns a share of Fox News, which you failed to mention.

    Not to mention also that Rudy took the endorsement of Pat Robertson, who blamed Americans for 9/11.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 09 January, 2008 17:22  

  • And Newton - moreover

    Fox News is obviously supporting Rudy - Roger Ailes headed his Mayorial Election Campaign back in '88. They are very good friends, thus the reason Rudy has been given more airtime on Fox than any of the others.

    I would have more respect for Rudy if he questioned his best bud about why a jihadist owns a share in Fox News quite frankly.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 09 January, 2008 17:32  

  • Rudy is busniess partners with people who were directly involved with 9-11

    I will send the links at a later time, Rudy supports Dubai world ports, Rudy's loyalty lies to whoever has the $$$

    and he is a fascist, intent on turning America into a militaty police state. He is indeed an enemy and should be arrested, his intent is to end freedom in America.

    i do not care who wins, as long as Rudy is no where near the White house. Rudy's low numbers prove the RNC echo chamber of Fox and Hannity is not influencing anybody any longer
    Rudy's floundring proves Hannity has ZERIO influence, nobody is taking him seriously. Hannity has campaigned for Rudy since 9-11 !!! I'm sceptical of Arbitron ratings anyway, and Hannity and colmes, is not exactly watched by the masses. 1.5 million viewers a night is a drop in the bucket. Hannity is a non factor.

    This is Jared, MOP btw, i do not know why it is posting as "hershel"
    and I do not support Paul, Im a Kucinich backer, I respect Paul and his supportes have guts!!

    By Blogger Unknown, at 09 January, 2008 18:00  

  • what kind of mind numb robots vote for someone just on someone (anyone) else's say so. Rush likes Thompson. if you listen to him for one day you can figure that one out. He is the one with the most conservative notches in his gun belt.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 09 January, 2008 18:14  

  • I find it hilarious that these two liberals, MOP and the other half of the circle jerk radio Jared, find camaraderie with a racist like Ron Paul. I’ll tell you what; the dem’s can have the Ron Paul supporters they will fit right in with the freaks on the left.

    By Blogger pf1, at 10 January, 2008 01:29  

  • Talkers are all about division -- left vs. right. But if McCain and Obama win, it will actually show a LESSENING influence of talk radio. I haven't heard a single conservative talk radio host who supports McCain, but the voters did in NH (and now are in national polls). Severin and others strongly supported Romney, and it didn't matter. And I hear very little enthusiasm for bashing Obama (as opposed to Clinton).

    Methinks this is a year in which talk radio won't matter much at all.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 January, 2008 09:15  

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