Mike Huckabee's new show takes on Rush Limbaugh

David Brancaccio: A man named Rush Limbaugh gets new competition on the radio today. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will debut his own syndicated radio show with a conservative bent right in Limbaugh's same weekday timeslot. Limbaugh has been losing advertisers.

Marketplace's John Dimsdale has the story.


John Dimsdale: The slogan for "The Huckabee Show" is "more conversation, less confrontation." Doesn't sound like what usually sells on talk radio stations.

Holland Cooke: Since Rush stepped in it, the specter of Huckabee replacing Limbaugh on some of those stations has become a topic of extreme interest in the radio community.

Holland Cooke is a talk radio consultant. Ever since Limbaugh called a college law student a slut for supporting contraception insurance, the number of stations signing up for the launch of Huckabee's show has more than doubled to 140. Cooke thinks Limbaugh's "shock jock" language is losing its appeal.

Cooke: Maybe there's a generational quality to this. When you listen to him, it sounds like a bit of a vestige. He seems to pine for the Gipper, who was elected nearly 30 years ago, and that was then and this is now.

Audiences have been abandoning Limbaugh over the past three years. To keep his base of older white men tuned in, he's resorted to a more inflammatory style, says David Frum, a conservative commentator for The Daily Beast.

David Frum: So what's been happening to the radio audience is like leaving a glass of orange juice out on the window sill on a hot day. The volume of fluid shrinks and the flavor becomes much more concentrated.

Frum says Huckabee's softer style will appeal to women, who've been deserting Limbaugh's show.

Frum: If you bring women into your listenership, women are bigger consumers than men. Advertisers are very very interested in talking to a more female-tilted audience.

If Limbaugh continues to alienate women, Frum says he may end up alongside another shock jock, Howard Stern, on satellite radio.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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