Rush Limbaugh, the undisputed king of conservative talk radio, has weathered both countless challenges from rival right-winger talkers — including Bill O'Reilly and former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) — and the advertiser exodus that followed his much-maligned suggestion that Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke was a "slut" for promoting birth control subsidies. But starting Monday, Rush faces a wily new contender in his 12 to 3 p.m. weekday time slot: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who promises "more conversation, less confrontation." Cumulus Media, which will air Huckabee's show on some 200 stations nationwide, bills Huckabee as a "safe alternative" to the often-incendiary Limbaugh. Did the Fluke controversy make Rush vulnerable to Huckabee?
Limbaugh is in trouble: While Rush's older male audience remains unswervingly loyal, Rush has been losing other listeners for years, David Frum tells Marketplace. And now, the likable Huckabee is well-positioned to pick up Limbaugh's female deserters. "Advertisers are very, very interested in talking to a more female-tilted audience" because they are bigger consumers than men. Limbaugh has long seemed like Goliath. But that was once true of Howard Stern, too. When's the last time you listened to his radio show?
"Mike Huckabee's new show takes on Rush Limbaugh"
Huckabee is no Rush killer: Have Huckabee boosters even watched his TV show on Fox News? asks Eric Celeste at Creative Loafing. He has all "the charisma of a phone booth." I understand the logic of picking a softer, gentler "card-carrying Christian conservative" to snatch up Limbaugh listeners, but Huckabee's not the guy. Meanwhile, for all his faults, Limbaugh is still "an incredibly talented radio host," and he's "kicked the hell out of all challengers for about 20 years." Huckabee's next.
"Wait, this guy is going to beat Rush Limbaugh?"
The Huckabee-Limbaugh rivalry is over-hyped: Thanks to the Sandra Fluke flap, Huckabee's Limbaugh-challenging radio show is receiving far more attention than it should be, says Radio Ink, particularly since, on many radio stations, "it's not really about competing with Rush." Initially, at least, many broadcasters may delay Huckabee's program until after Limbaugh's show, until they see how well Huckabee performs. Huckabee will largely stand or fall on his own merits, and it's up to him to deliver an entertaining three-hour gabfest.
"The buildup and hype end. Huckabee goes live at noon."