|Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh (Credit: AP/Dr. Scott M. Lieberman/Reuters/Chris Keane/Micah Walter)|
The party began reaching out to powerful conservative voices months ago, when the prospect of a contested convention, and grassroots confusion and anger about the primary process, became a gathering storm over Republican chances of taking the White House.
The party brass took those conservative voices for granted in the past, but when Republicans headed to Florida for their spring meeting in late April, RNC bigwigs took a detour to visit Limbaugh.
While there, Spicer and RNC spokesman Marlon Bateman waited behind the glass for the final 30 minutes of Limbaugh's show, listening while a caller ripped the RNC as "the most pathetic group" who wanted only power and did not care about voters.
The Priebus-Limbaugh meeting, scheduled to last 30 minutes, went on for an hour-and-a-half, Bateman said. Half of it was about the business of the GOP, and the rest was the two men getting to know each other.
The GOP's effort appeared to have paid off for all sides. Bateman, who is heavily involved in the party's effort to marshal talk radio, said Priebus gave talk radio high priority as part of his daily media diet. Bateman is a former producer of Hugh Hewitt's radio show.
"These top talkers, they're principled guys, they're not going to sell out their audience for anybody," Bateman said. "They've done it their way. And especially people like Levin, Hewitt, Rush, [Sean] Hannity, they're not changing for anybody. It's what they do. And all we can do is engage with them and answer their questions."
The survey polled 1,007 adults spread across Colorado, Texas and Virginia, from January 25 through February 5, and found that one-third of "opportunity voters" spent more time listening to radio than watching television.
Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, the top trade publication covering the radio industry, said he thinks talk radio on whole is more interested in maintaining a relationship with their audience than cultivating political influence or taking a specific perspective because of its potential benefit for business. But Harrison also described talk radio as an "entertainment medium with the ultimate reality show that deals in political reality" that has seen an extraordinary boom from the political turmoil.
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