The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

06 February 2008

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.

OLBY'S racist slur

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  • Of course, this means regardless who wins the "Fairness" Doctrine is going to be a big issue. Obama/Clinton because liberal talk radio is hopeless. McCain because he seems to resent any unregulated political speech.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 February, 2008 12:09  

  • Gee, I guess by the same token, Romney won yesterday too, since he's attracted so much attention. And Huckabee must have lost, since he got so little.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 February, 2008 12:15  

  • This is absurd. The coverage has been about the DECLINE of talk radio influence. That's like saying the Patriots won the Super Bowl, because they kept getting mentioned in post-game news stories.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 February, 2008 12:30  

  • Talk radio commentators demand a vote for Romney--Republican voters ignore them and vote for McCain--and it's a win for talk radio? Apparently, I missed something here.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 February, 2008 12:52  

  • Mr. Maloney,

    Look, I'm a huge Rush fan.
    (Or at least I was 'til he signed on to the "no difference between McCain and Obama/Hillary" nonsense.)

    But there's no getting around the fact that:
    (a) Talk radio has been on the warpath against McCain, but
    (b) John McCain won really big last night.

    And from this we conclude that talk radio was the real winner?

    Sheesh! If that's victory, what does defeat look like?

    Best regards,

    Harris Abrams

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 February, 2008 12:56  

  • Looks like a couple of you posted comments without first reading the piece.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 06 February, 2008 12:56  

  • The disconnect here is that some of you don't understand the point of talk radio, which is to generate attention that leads to ratings and revenue.

    In the past, the medium was ignored. This time, the MSM has been focused on destroying it. That's great for talk radio.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 06 February, 2008 12:59  

  • If that's what you meant, Brian, than you shouldn't have used the words "simply has never been more influential than in 2008". You should have said talk radio "simply has never been more profitable" or "simply has never been more able to attract attention and advertising dollars." Those have different meanings than what you said in the opening paragraph.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 February, 2008 13:03  

  • By the way, I agree with you on that point.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 February, 2008 13:09  

  • Daniel S, it's all of the above. If talk radio had really become irrelevant, the mainstream media would ignore it.

    At the same time, the added attention benefits the medium. Ratings will be through the roof this year.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 06 February, 2008 13:09  

  • Brian is right. Those who complain about Rush dominating the discussions on this site are extremely envious. I live in L A. Rush dominates the radio scene here in this liberal mecca, and has from day one. The other hosts on the station that airs Rush do nothing but bash him and distance themselves from him as much as possible. It all comes across as petty jealousy. They also bash Dr. Laura whose show comes on right after Rush.

    Please Brian, keep telling it like it is.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 February, 2008 13:14  

  • I disagree in that I think it's quite possible to generate lots of attention and revenue while being politically irrelevant. Viva Ron Paul.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 February, 2008 13:23  

  • Brian.

    You actually made a few good points in your posting. If the purpose of talk radio is to be an entertainment medium that generates massive ratings and revenue (and for those of us who've worked in this business for a few decades... that's all it is and ever will be), these last few weeks have been great for the medium. Talk radio couldn't buy the kind of publicity it has received for TV, print and the blogosphere. If that attention translates into more listeners and time spent listening then it should likewise translate into revenue.

    The question is, will those numbers still be there in a month or two when McCain has the nomination and RWTR continues its McCain broadside? It will probably grow old, not only to the wave of new listeners who tuned into the drama but to the rank and file loyalists as well. The programmers and hosts know where their bread is buttered. As much as Rush, et al, argue to the contrary, they will find a reason to fall in line once the nomination is secured. There will be endless speculation as to whom will be McCain's running mate and there are already tons of rumors circulating. And the RNC and Karl Rove (now masquerading as a Fox News "analyst") still have a few tricks up their sleeve.

    I have often thought that this whole thing has been engineered from the beginning. I think that John McCain is precisely whom the Bushies want to put up against the Dems because they knew a too conservative nominee would never stand a chance agains the Dem candidate. It became obvious fairly early on that Giuliani had too much baggage, Thompson is not good enough of an actor and the rest of the cast just a tad too weird to pass mainstream muster. I also think they realize that they owe John and, with their tacit support, they could own him. I get the feeling that that little White House summoning last year was Karl's opportunity to relate the gameplan to the radio actors... and it's working. Whodathunk... Rove is now Orson Welles and he crafted a perfect hoax on the mainstream media.

    Rush and his fellow travelers WILL capitulate. They're just waiting for the right excuse. If anyone thinks they are just going hand the White House over to the Dems, they're overdosing on the Kool-Aid.

    By Blogger Dave Carroll, at 06 February, 2008 13:28  

  • There is a point being missed here, in terms of influence (as opposed to profit). If this race becomes McCain vs. Obama, then it is very dire news for talk radio. These two candidates are non-dogmatic, whereas dogma is the entire essence of political talk radio.

    No wonder Rush would vote for Hillary and supports Romney. He needs people like them to win.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 February, 2008 13:41  

  • Brian's post is a clear an example of spin as I can find regarding this issue. Yes, talk radio's place in society is at an all-time or near all-time high, but last night's events are no cause for celebration on that count. Rather, they only further and unnecessarily add fuel to the argument that talk radio is dominated by a narrow point of view.

    Whatever McCain's apostasies from the right (and given his ACU lifetime rating of 82% they aren't a great in number as some suggest) Rush's suggestion that McCain would be as damaging as a Hillary or Obama presidency is, as Jonah Goldberg might phrase it, "nonsense on stilts."

    Rush's problem is that he has a long history of animosity towards McCain (and vice-versa) stemming from the 2000 election and quite frankly it's coloring his judgement in a way I've not seen before. Suggesting to those of us who largely agree with Rush on a number of issues (few people can say they are totally in agreement on all the issues) that McCain is a danger of this magnitude is a slap in the face to the careful judgement that many of us have employed in choosing the known quantity of McCain over the suspiciously eager to please Romney.

    Quite frankly, I always trust people who are more or less straight with me, however rude, than people who spend a lot of time telling me what I want to hear.

    More to the point though, talk radio on the right has hammered McCain over and over and he's still picking up enough of the conservative base to carry the day. As influence goes, that's not very impressive, and given talk radio's ability to inform and shape opinion in the past it's a significant defeat for the hosts in question.

    Moreso, however much the controversy may be driving ratings on the short term, the hit these hosts are taking is on their credibility. Arguing that McCain is worse than Hillary, after having spent the last six years emphasizing the war on terror and the importance of victory in Iraq suggests either a serious lack of perspective reagrding the former or disingenousness reagrding the latter.

    That combination has kept me tuned to music or my CD player these days, and I suspect I'm not alone. If talk radio damages the McCain GOP candidacy to the point where Hill or Obama wind up in office, they will be reaping the costs of that damage for years.

    ...and so will the nation.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 February, 2008 13:59  

  • Ditto has microscopic ratings, these are the facts, get the books, nobody is listening anymore. Maybe this will be a shot in the arm for wing nut radio... Ditto's time is almost up, how long can people listen to a drop out?

    BTW: Dems outvoted Repubs 3:1 in Super Tuesday, the GOP is finished. Lots of whining soon on an AM radio near you.

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 06 February, 2008 14:02  

  • I think I figured it all out

    Limbaugh is being a good Republican. The GOP does not want to win this election. Why?? Because the full effects of Bush leadership will finally hit in maybe 2010 , and we will have a great depression, and Islamic regime in Pakistan with Nukes pointed at America. Someone has to take the blame for all of this, why not the new Democratic president, Clinton or Obama????

    The plan is to blame everything on the next president, to have America forget all about the Bush regime and blame the Democrats, so Rush is being a good Republican and tossing the election to the Democrats. With McCain in office, it is going to be hard to blame "libs", hence after a great depression no Republican will EVER hold office again, so with a Dem in office and Rush in the radio and his clones, they can blame "libs", and try to get power back in 4 years.

    The question remains, is anyone listening to Rush anymore? Can the plan work?

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 06 February, 2008 16:49  

  • "The programmers and hosts know where their bread is buttered."

    Do they, though?

    I'm not convinced, although a large number of them seem to be...

    "I have often thought that this whole thing has been engineered from the beginning."

    Well, yes. The point is, can complicity in the neocon's attempt to overthrow America's government be proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt? And, does the American public possess the will to see that to its logical conclusion, and follow through on key, vital, corrective measures, even though to do so will seem counterintuitive to the goal of reestablishing liberty and national sovereignity?

    "These two candidates are non-dogmatic, whereas dogma is the entire essence of political talk radio."

    I don't know that the candidates themselves (or any candidate, for that matter) are non-dogmatic.

    I do know that their dogma already implies the reality that the agents provocateur and loyalists to foreign principalities and powers
    will soon find themselves on the outside, looking in...and that is a decidedly good thing for the nation.

    "If talk radio damages the McCain GOP candidacy to the point where Hill or Obama wind up in office, they will be reaping the costs of that damage for years.

    ...and so will the nation."

    Well, maybe. It cannot hurt to HELP them along...

    "BTW: Dems outvoted Repubs 3:1 in Super Tuesday, the GOP is finished."

    Unfortunately, MOP, no, this dream has not yet realized itself.

    It is only the failed ideology within it called conservatism that is dead, and this reality can only continue to manifest itself as long as the GOP continues to ENABLE these failures to remain in the spotlight.

    It also must be remembered that the neocons are the enemy within, and the single greatest threat to America and Americans.

    The Democratic party, sadly, is infested with neocon influences as well, and must be purged as soon as is safely feasible.

    I'm not worried. Americans are awakening...

    "Someone has to take the blame for all of this, why not the new Democratic president, Clinton or Obama????"

    Yes, but there are positive elements in this for progressives as well.

    Again, this time these tactics will be far more transparent to Americans. They've been through this before, and now know what to expect.

    "With McCain in office, it is going to be hard to blame "libs", hence after a great depression no Republican will EVER hold office again, so with a Dem in office and Rush in the radio and his clones, they can blame "libs", and try to get power back in 4 years."

    No, because they have already convinced themselves McCain IS a "lib"! Despite all evidence to the contrary, they will easily make this psychological leap to self-demonization, because they have already managed to distance themselves from him, even to the point of believing they are capable of functioning independently of the Republican Party, which is where they will experience some surprising revelations, the results of which will be not at all necessarily counterproductive to the nation's interests.

    Forget about four's more like twelve.

    "The question remains, is anyone listening to Rush anymore? Can the plan work?"

    Yes, only they are listening with a slightly different perspective in regards to their "titan". They realize they threw their own manhoods on the altar of the cult of personality. It will take time for them to relearn how to think independently...just enough time for us to realize OUR goals.

    Technology will play a role, as well.

    Look at the number of replies Brian received on a non-substantive post that he sees as a call to arms, versus WEEKS of almost total disinterest in his running commentary on the lead-up to the primary itself.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 07 February, 2008 01:24  

  • Brian, I like your blog and read it frequently, but you are so often up Limbaugh' ass I sometimes wonder if you are angling for a job or something. This analysis is absurd.

    Limbaugh always gets press, good and bad. This time its bad. He bet the house on derailing McCain and Huckabee, and both had a great night. Romney, his pick, had a bad one, and in heavily red territory like the South. There's no way to spin this that Limbaugh is exposed as impotent and old. Talk radio is no longer the influencing medium it once was. Listeners are old, unplugged in and isolated. My dad listens Rush and he's always got the conservative echo chamber version of what's going on. Personally, I prefer reality, that's why I go to the enemy and read lefty blogs as well as righty blogs.

    Rush Limbaugh is entertaining to some people who ride around in a car or truck all day, I guess. To those of us who want real political insights, not so much.

    By Blogger docweasel, at 07 February, 2008 05:21  

  • No one is listening anymore to 620 or so radio staions all over the country. I suppose the good Minister's blog has a cosmic super-nova of page views by unique users reading and commenting furiously on the amazing insight and political genius such as he has displayed here. How is it that the Minister is influencing the Democrat primary? You couldn't save Dennis the Menace from inevitable impeachment irrelevance, and war-voter Hillary is using good old racism and sexism and oppo-research smear machines against the first viable black candidate. Why can't you stop this Minister? Where are your vaunted debating skills that you are so keen to brag about?

    Enjoy your irrelevance.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 07 February, 2008 08:43  

  • Randi Rhodes of Air America is taking credit for the high turnout of democratic voters. She also took credit for the 2006 election.
    According to "Radio & Records" Air America ratings are dismal. Could you give the individual ratings for the hosts on Air America Radio.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 07 February, 2008 09:03  

  • I'm not buying some of these "I like your blog but you're supporting Rush too much" comments. Why wouldn't you expect a conservative talk radio blogger to support Rush?

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 07 February, 2008 09:35  

  • "Why wouldn't you expect a conservative talk radio blogger to support Rush?"

    Because part of your function as a "conservative" talk radio blogger is to remain objective about Rush's show and his positions, not to serve as just another right-wing echo chamber.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 07 February, 2008 10:37  

  • Brian

    He is not a conservative, neither are you. What you sdubscribe to is neo-liberalism, Thatcher-Reagan, neo-liberalism

    yep!! Brian and Limbaugh, to those who understand politics are neo-liberals!!

    It is called poli-sci. I have a degree in it, Limbaiugh is far far far far away from a conservative, they are neo-liberals, not democratic-socialists (tradtitional liberals, such as myself) but globalists... NEO-liberals

    bu bu bu bu bu

    that us correct Reagan is a neo-lib, Maloney is a neo-lib, Limbaugh is a neo-lib, Clinton was a neo-lib. Sorry to inform you, ditto his ilk, dumbed down politics to the levekl where neo-liberals think they are conservatives.

    Sad, that those with understanding of politics are not on the radio, but idiuots are on the radio, Limbaugh thinks he is a conservative. Anyone with a political science degree would tell you otherwise

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 07 February, 2008 11:57  

  • There is a difference between supporting Rush and becoming an apologist for him. He is simply wrong in this case on where the GOP electorate is, and McCain's wins will further diminish his fading influence. Rush was in the GOP mainstream for a while, but now he's more on the fringe. It's a big fringe, but the fringe nonetheless.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 07 February, 2008 12:49  

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