On this first day of the new Mike Huckabee radio talk show, you may be hearing a lot of references to some perceived showdown between the two shows. This is largely a contrivance.
Full disclosure department-- I have high regard for both gentlemen and a connection to both, as follows:
I have filled in for Rush on many occasions for three years-- and am about to do so again in the coming days. Details to follow on that. I have been around him on a few occasions and he is unfailingly gracious and kind.
I have actually been around Gov. Huckabee even more, especially lately. He has been a guest on my show often, and a speaker at two events I have MC’d in just the last few months, from a Ken Paxton fundraiser for his State Senate campaign to an event for the McKinney Christian Academy in February. He is a delight to be around and has been very generous in his praise of my work, which I appreciate greatly.
The years since his 2008 presidential run have been very eventful for Gov. Huckabee in the private sector. He has shown in his various books and his Fox News Channel TV show that he is capable of success in many realms. It is a natural supposition that he might be able to do well in the world of talk radio.
Meanwhile, the Rush Limbaugh show continues as the iconic program of its type. There are other shows that have chalked up great success, hosted by friends of mine like Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, or by new acquaintances like Glenn Beck. But no one has equaled Rush’s impact, and that is not likely to change.
As such, identifying any new show as some singular challenge to Limbaugh or some unique alternative to him is not particularly coherent. Despite absurd exaggerations to the contrary, the Limbaugh show has not been rocked by any sizable exodus of sponsors as a result of the Sandra Fluke controversy in particular or any distaste with the show in general. Such stories are largely the product of bad reporting by sloppy reporters or wishful thinking by ideological enemies. So just to settle this, the Limbaugh show remains the highest-impact radio talk show in the world, a perch not likely to be lost any time soon.
Now to the debut of Mike Huckabee. The Governor’s foray into my world is properly approached with a large dose of anticipation. The show’s professed formula of “less confrontation, more conversation” may work quite well, especially when driven by the ample potential of Gov. Huckabee’s talent. But the notion that America’s talk show audiences grow weary of assertive hosts is false on its face. Many shows that have attempted to be more even-handed and placid have soon been buried under the weight of sheer boredom.
Huckabee has a chance to do much better, and I wish him nothing but the best. If he succeeds, he may bring some new listeners to the talk show world, which would be great. But there is little substance to the notion that this is some zero-sum game in which Huckabee’s popularity is measured in chunks taken out of Rush’s hide. That simply will not happen.
So, I offer best wishes to both of these important conservative voices-- to Rush, the wish is for continued years of triumph in an arena he has long dominated. And to Governor Huckabee, the wish is for a successful launch as he seeks to bring his affable wisdom to a new art form. There is always room for more conservatism in talk radio. And more liberalism, too, if audiences welcome it. Anyone suggesting that talk radio needs “balance” fails to see that talk radio IS balance-- a conservative- leaning enclave up against the liberal-dominated worlds of news reporting, Hollywood and academia. It is the purest of marketplaces. Ultimately, it will be up to listeners to determine which shows succeed and which do not. Meanwhile, the birth of a new conservative show is always good news.