Last week, the Daily Telegraph put out an attention-grabbing list of the 100 most influential conservatives in America. Lists of that sort, by their very nature, tend to be quite arbitrary and debatable, but the Telegraph's list struck me as being particularly far off the mark. With that in mind, I decided to put together a list of my own and although people will undoubtedly disagree with some of my selections, it's hard to imagine that I could do any worse than the Daily Telegraph, which seems to think that Christopher Hitchens, Andrew Sullivan, Jack Abramoff, Drew Carey, & Joe Lieberman are amongst the 50 most influential conservatives in America.
Honorary Mentions: Roger Ailes, Samuel Alito, Jed Babbin, Roy Blunt, Neil Boortz, Pat Buchanan, Tom Coburn, Joseph Farrah, Edwin Feulner, David Horowitz, Laura Ingraham, Fredrick Kagan, Charles Krauthammer, Trent Lott, Glenn Reynolds, Antonin Scalia, Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, R. Emmett Tyrell, George Will
25) Michelle Malkin: She is a well-read columnist, runs two of the largest conservative blogs, is a popular author, and does semi-regular TV appearances on Fox. Her mixture of social conservatism, a tough stance on illegal immigration, and ferocious criticism of liberals has helped her to become a force in the conservative movement.
24) Jim DeMint: The feisty Republican from South Carolina is shaping up to be the leader of conservatives in the Senate on everything from illegal immigration to fiscal issues.
23) Mark Steyn: He is a wildly popular columnist whose arguments about Europe heading into a downward spiral have started to become conventional wisdom amongst conservatives.
22) William Kristol: He is the editor of the Weekly Standard, which has been effective at pushing the Republican Party to be more aggressive on the foreign policy front and regrettably, more moderate on domestic policy.
21) Glenn Beck: He has 5 million listeners a week on the radio and an up-and-coming show on CNN. There may not be a person on this list with the potential to climb higher up this list over the next 5 years than Beck.
20) Michael Savage: Savage is cranky, brilliant, controversial, pessimistic, over-the-top, and hypnotically charming all at the same time. That's how he has managed to build an audience of 8.5 million listeners a week even though he is ignored by much of the mainstream conservative movement. But, like him or not, Savage definitely has sway.
19) Newt Gingrich: Along with Ronald Reagan and Rush Limbaugh, Gingrich is the man most responsible for the conservative resurgence since the eighties. Although he's not running for President, he's still a brilliant-idea guy and the respect he has earned from engineering the Republican takeover of the House back in 1994 ensures that when he speaks, people listen.
18) Tom Tancredo: More than any other man, Tanc is responsible for changing public opinion on illegal immigration in this country. At one time, he was practically a voice in the wilderness on the issue -- but in large part because of his impassioned leadership, the Republican Party and the American people have come three quarters of the way towards his position on illegals.
17) Jeb Hensarling: He is the Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the powerful group that agitates for fiscal conservatism in the House.
16) Ann Coulter: Some people love her and some people hate her, but everyone tunes in to see what she's going to say next -- and more often than not, Coulter's biting humor and outrageous quips have a point behind them that she inserts into the national consciousness with a bang. Ask John Edwards, who tangled with Coulter -- and was damaged so heavily that he ended up having to take public financing for his presidential campaign.
15) Condi Rice: People have called Karl Rove "Bush's brain," but when it comes to foreign policy, it is debatable whether anyone has had a bigger impact on Bush's thinking than Condi Rice. Unfortunately for her, she has become steadily less popular with conservatives since she became Secretary of State and began to pursue policies that are less palatable to hawkish Republicans.
14) Paul Gigot: He is the Editorial Page Editor of the Wall Street Journal, a paper that's a stalwart advocate for free trade, lower taxes, pro-business policies, and tragically, open borders and amnesty for illegal aliens. Had the WSJ taken a different position during the illegal immigration debate, it's entirely possible that the messy conflagration that ensued could have been avoided.
13) Pat Toomey: He is the President of the Club for Growth, which has become a force in Republican politics by becoming a potent advocate for fiscal conservatism and going after spendthrift Republicans in the primaries.
12) Rich Lowry: He has been the editor of National Review for a decade. Having the power to decide which articles get published in what may be America's most prestigious conservative magazine makes you mighty indeed on the Right.
11) John McCain: When Republicans in the Senate surprise people by teaming up with the Democrats to jam a thumb into the eye of conservatives on some key issue -- 9 times out of 10, McCain is the one leading the charge. That makes him a very influential man -- not influential in a good way, but influential.
10) James Dobson: The Christian conservative movement in the GOP has fragmented in the last decade or so and Dobson, who has alienated a lot of conservatives this year by threatening to form a third party in 2008, is the most powerful leader of the socially conservative wing of the party.
9) Mitch McConnell: His performance as the GOP's leader in the Senate has been head and shoulders above that of his predecessor Bill Frist, but McConnell still hasn't quite managed to get himself in tune with the base on immigration and spending issues.
8) Bill O'Reilly: His unique mixture of populism and social conservatism has enabled him to pull in more than 3 million listeners a week on the radio, write best selling books, and host the most-watched program on cable news. That last part is particularly important, given the lock that liberals have had when it comes to news on TV.
7) Dick Cheney: Cheney, who has been a solid conservative influence in the White House, is the single most powerful Vice President in living memory.
6) John Boehner: He wasn't viewed as an agent of change when he was elected as Minority Leader in the House, but he has done an outstanding job of steering Republicans in the House to the right since the GOP's crushing loss in 2006.
5) John Roberts: He isn't the only originalist on the Court and he doesn't have the flair of Antonin Scalia or the conservative record of Clarence Thomas, but after only a short time on the job, he is putting his own indelible stamp on the Court with his exceptional leadership style as Chief Justice.
4) Sean Hannity: Even though his talk show wasn't syndicated nationally until late 2001, Sean Hannity has already garnered 12.5 million listeners a week, is half of the 2nd hottest show on the cable news networks, and has put out two best-selling books. Few people, if any, have risen further, faster, within the conservative movement.
3) Rush Limbaugh: The Doctor of Democracy has 13.5 million listeners a week on his radio program and many of them have been availing themselves of his wisdom daily, for years. You ever heard the phrase, "You can't fight city hall?" Well, Rush Limbaugh went head-to-head with Harry Reid and 41 Democratic senators who smeared him and not only did he win the fight, he humiliated them in the process.
2) Matt Drudge: His website, the Drudge Report, generates more than 10 million impressions per day and more importantly, sets the agenda for much of the rest of the media. If Matt Drudge puts a story at the top of his website, it instantly becomes a hot story in the mainstream media, talk radio, and the blogosphere. More than anyone else in the media, Drudge determines whether a story is hot or not.
1) George W. Bush: Granted, he's a lame duck President with low approval ratings and mediocre communication skills -- but for good or ill, George Bush shapes many of the political debates we have in this country. Whether you're talking about illegal immigration, deficit spending, foreign policy, or Campaign 2008, George Bush's policies are right at the heart of the discussion.
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