Politico recently ran a feature on Republican presidential frontrunner Jeb Bush’s problem with talk radio. The piece mentions Laura Ingraham, who said there would be no difference between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, and called for them to run on a ticket together, “Clush 2016.” But it goes deeper into the complicated relationship that talk radio king Rush Limbaugh has with Jeb.
The Right Frequency describes the complicated relationship between Limbaugh and the Bush family. The book describes how Limbaugh endorsed Pat Buchanan’s primary challenge to George H.W. Bush in 1992. Limbaugh actually tore into Buchanan in the 1996 Republican presidential primary. In 2000, Limbaugh wholeheartedly supported George. W. Bush in the Republican primary against John McCain.
Bush, who’s all but officially announced he’s running for president, has said he would want to run a “joyful” campaign. He’s said he would want to have “adult conversations.” It’s phrasing that hints at his general distaste for conservative talk radio. Some Bush allies privately refer to some of the medium’s leaders as “warlords”—a description meant to convey the unreasonable, unrealistic and pugilistic agenda of those who thrive off of conflict. Bush, on the other hand, believes a winning Republican campaign a decade and a half into the 21st century must promote inclusion and optimism, not discontent and fear. People think he’s too moderate in part because Limbaugh and the Limbaugh-like are saying he is. So here, almost a year before the 2016 Iowa caucuses, the primaries have started already—the fundraising and positioning of the so-called invisible primary, but a visible one, too, or at least an audible one. Call it the Rush primary.
Every Republican politician of a certain consequence over the last quarter-century has had to make a decision about how to engage with Limbaugh and the many others who populate America’s most redward airwaves. Bush right now isn’t talking about this because (1) it’s so early in the campaign the campaign can’t even technically be called a campaign and (2) that would be unwise. Limbaugh and his imitative competitors don’t need additional oxygen. But based on conversations with strategists and advisers connected to Bush, consultants, show hosts and industry watchers—and what he’s done over the past month—Bush won’t ignore talk radio.
If there is in fact a Rush primary, Bush, headstrong and self-assured, thinks he can win that one, too.
To learn more about Limbaugh’s complicated relationship with the Bush family, read The Right Frequency.