This is a long memo, born of two decades of frustration with the Beltway sharpies who run campaigns and are clueless about talk radio. There is no hostility here, just frustration with the invincible ignorance of the consulting class that wouldn't know the difference between a Thursday afternoon drive show in Denver and a late night dollar-a-holler stick in Flat Plains, Nowhere.
By way of background, I began my talk radio career in 1990. In the 22 years since, I have covered six presidential races. Before that I watched two presidential races from within the Reagan Administration, and one from the office across the walkway from Richard Nixon's in San Clemente and NYC.
I'm no Bob Shrum, thank God, but I know a couple of things about radio and running for president.
Here are some undeniable facts.
This race will turn on the results in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.
Each of those states have between one and six major media markets, and each of those markets have at least one and usually three "talkers." Those markets are --from south to north and then east to west-- Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Charlotte, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Philly, Pittsburgh, Boston and Manchester, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cinncy, Detroit, Milwaukee, Des Moines, Denver and Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, Las Vegas and Reno.
There are just nine radio talk show hosts who broadcast in all or most of those markets every day for three hours each day and whose shows Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will find engaged but serious hosts who won’t pull stunts or create embarrassing moments for ratings.
Those hosts are Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levine, Bill Bennett, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, Laura Ingraham, Mike Gallagher, and me.
There are plenty of other fine hosts, some with big audiences in a particular city, like Mike Rosen in Denver. Rosen dominates Denver radio, as others do other cities.
There are also hosts who have hit standing in the specifically Christian community, as with Janet Mefferd nationally and Frank Pastore in southern California.
But for sheer impact on center-right political listeners --those listeners who vote, contribute, volunteer, and, crucially, influence others-- the nine above are the key.
There are other great hosts, like Lars Larson, but if you are talking audience size in the major markets in the swing states, these are the nine.