The Corner

David Brooks vs. Talk Radio

Brooks has an interesting thesis today: that high-profile right-wing media figures don’t have the sort of political power that a lot of people, especially Republican politicians, think they do. Maybe he’s right. But several of the data points he assembles to make his case don’t seem all that convincing to me.

Start with his opening point, which he spends the most time on: Supposedly radio talk-show hosts proved their powerlessness by failing to deliver the nomination to Mitt Romney or keep it from John McCain. I don’t believe these guys really were boosting Romney through the winter of 2007, as Brooks has it. In my recollection, you saw a spate of high-profile conservative endorsements only after the New Hampshire and even the Florida primaries. For whatever reason — I suspect it was the hard-to-predict dynamics of a multi-candidate field — a lot of these folks did not endorse until it was too late for them to have an impact. Maybe their tardiness is an example of their lack of political sense; but it is at least possible that they could have exercised real political influence with a better strategy.

I didn’t think of Rush Limbaugh’s suggestion that his listeners vote in the Democratic presidential primaries last year as a serious political effort; I thought he was having fun, not least with the press. So I’m not sure it makes sense for Brooks to go through follow-up studies on Limbaugh’s impact.

Finally, is it true that any of these guys encouraged Randy Graf to run on a single-issue anti-amnesty platform in Arizona? Or did they just (strongly!) encourage candidates to oppose amnesty?

Again, Brooks might be right. But I don’t think he has proved his case.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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