Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Conservative Talk Radio Stakes Reputation on McCain Defeat

David Bauder argues that talk radio's right-wing big-shots have staked their reputations on the successful demonization of John McCain:

John McCain heads into Tuesday's Florida primary facing resistance from not only his fellow candidates, but also from the leaders of conservative talk radio, who some suggest have put their reputations on the line, as well.

Talk radio pioneer Rush Limbaugh said that if McCain or Mike Huckabee are nominated, "it's going to destroy the Republican Party." Mark Levin calls the senator "John McLame." On Monday, Laura Ingraham said she was "concerned about the mental stability of the McCain campaign" and had cuckoo-clock sound effects accompany his words.

"Sen. McCain is a great American, a lousy senator and a terrible Republican," Hugh Hewitt told The Associated Press. "He has a legislative record that is not conservative. In fact, it is anti-conservative."

Yet with McCain winning primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and in a virtual tie with Mitt Romney for the lead in polls in Florida, the top radio personalities are facing the possibility that their words are having little effect.

Radio host Michael Medved said that the big loser in South Carolina was talk radio, "a medium that has unmistakably collapsed in terms of impact, influence and credibility because of its hysterical and one-dimensional involvement in the GOP nomination fight."

Its continued resistance to McCain will be ineffective and will hurt both the Republican Party and the radio industry, Medved said.

The long-running hostility toward McCain stems from his failure to follow conservative orthodoxy on issues including immigration, global warming and money in politics, Hewitt said. McCain's endorsement by The New York Times _ the newspaper conservative talkers love to hate _ was just another indignity.

Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, warned against any conclusion that talk radio hosts would be diminished if McCain were to win the GOP nomination.

"It will give them an opportunity to reposition themselves in a more independent and populist way," Harrison said. Talk show hosts aren't judged on whom they pick as a candidate, any more than the jobs of football announcers are on the line with their Super Bowl predictions, he said.

They're judged on ratings and revenue, and every indication is that the election season will be a boon for talk radio, he said.
I've made similar points in recent entries, here and here.