With CNN and NBC out of the running for hosting 2016 GOP presidential primary debates, three of America’s biggest talkers could step forward, the Washington Examiner first reported this week. It would be a ratings bonanza if the candidates and the RNC have the guts to do it.
“Miffed that their candidates were singled out for personal questions or CNN John King’s ‘This or That,’ when he asked candidates quirky questions like ‘Elvis or Johnny Cash,’ GOP insiders tell Secrets that they are considering other choices, even a heavyweight panel of radio bigs Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin.
“They told Secrets that they are eager to bring in questioners who understand Republican policies and beliefs and who have the ability to get candidates to differentiate their positions on core conservative values.
“The move comes as several conservatives are pressuring the party to have Limbaugh, Hannity and Levin ask the debate questions. “It makes a lot of sense. We’d get a huge viewership, they’d make a lot of news and maybe have some fun too,” said one of the advocates of the radio trio hosting debates.”
Talk radio has helped shape the outcomes of Republican presidential primaries in the past. Below is an excerpt from The Right Frequency about the role of talk radio in the 2000 Republican presidential primary.
Bill Clinton was getting little attention in his final year in office, 2000, as most of the attention was focused on the presidential race.
Hosts weighed in heavily to the Republican primary, which had become a two man race between Texas Governor George W. Bush
and Arizona Senator John McCain by the end of 1999.
Rush Limbaugh threw all his support in the 2000 primary to
It is always impossible to know how much impact talk radio had
on primary voters, but it is certainly reasonable to view talk radio
having greater influence on a primary, when the choir seeks guidance
in making a choice, than in a general election when the choir
already knows what notes to sing and listens to the preacher for reaffirmation.
So it would be with Limbaugh’s near daily lambasting of
McCain, even more than he built up Bush.
“The way the primary system is set up today, talk radio has more
of an influence in encouraging primary voters to vote than general
election voters because talk radio has a higher audience of people
who are more in the extremes of both the left and the right,” said
Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers Magazine. “And statistics do
indicate that the turnout for primaries are more o the zealots than
the average person in the middle. Any radio show that specifically
targets the extremes is likely to galvanize voters. I would think that
talk radio has a bigger influence in primaries today than it does in
the general election.”
McCain had a mostly conservative record, but his support of
campaign finance reform was untenable to many conservatives, as
was his eagerness to “reach across the aisle” and work with
Democrats. Most Republicans liked him in spite of, not because of,
the McCain-Feingold bill. Still, because of his biography as a war
hero, a significant numbers of voters were enamored by him. The
mainstream media especially loved him, because he kept things
interesting, but also for the campaign finance reform proposal.
When McCain trounced Bush in the New Hampshire primary
by a surprising margin, it posed the question whether the inevitability
of Bush’s nomination would happen.
Limbaugh warned that even though the media is “orgasmic”
over McCain now, they are “love ’em and leave ’em liberals” if he is
the Republican nominee (a prediction given credence by the 2008
One of Limbaugh’s parodies featured a McCain supporter
singing, “He’s the candidate I adore. He can keep my tax cut and I’ll
be poor. And I’ll send him more.”
The National Annenberg Election Study found that post New
Hampshire primary listening to Limbaugh negatively affected the
voters feelings about McCain. This is significant since Limbaugh’s
focus on McCain really began after the senator’s victory in New
Hampshire. The Annenberg study also found that the impression
Republican voters in Super Tuesday states had of McCain took a
negative turn after listening to Limbaugh. So there is evidence to
show that talk radio can impact the outcome of a primary election.
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