Inside the Beltway: Trump factor: Talk radio learns from the master

“Love him or hate him, we in talk radio can learn a great deal from Donald Trump. Since he blasted onto the political scene, he’s been a ratings juggernaut. Even the news media have to admit this guy is ratings gold. The assumption in talk radio is that being rah-rah Trump equals big ratings. That would be completely missing the point. The Trump factor is not whether you support him or oppose him. It’s what you learn from him,” says Phil Valentine, a syndicated radio host heard on the Westwood One Network, writing in Talkers, an industry publication.

He has hints for his fellow talkers on how and what to learn from the president to better their own craft. Mr. Valentine advises, among other things, that on-air hosts need to be compelling, unpredictable and entertaining — like Mr. Trump.

“Be yourself. What connects Trump with people is he’s real. People are sick to death of guarded politicians. Guarded equals predictable. Predictable equals boring. The listener wants to hear something genuine, even if it’s not polished and perfect,” says Mr. Valentine. “You have to connect with your listeners. Trump’s the blue-collar billionaire for a reason. He connects with working men and women even though he’s worth billions because, deep down inside, that’s who he is. It’s extremely hard to connect and relate when you’re trying to be someone else.”

‘FIX DON’T FIGHT’

Major polls now reveal that a fatigued American public wants vexed Democrats to cooperate with President Trump and rival Republicans. Then there’s the group that wants everybody to cooperate with everybody. Rallying under the motto “fix don’t fight,” some 800 members of No Labels — a nonprofit that’s called for bipartisan cooperation since its founding seven years ago — will be on Capitol Hill on Thursday to demand the two sides shake hands and get down to business.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans want members of Congress to work together to pass legislation that tackles our nation’s toughest challenges,” the organizers say, advising lawmakers to “govern or go home.”

The group was founded by former presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman and former senator Joe Lieberman, and counts such veteran strategists as Al Cardenas among its many advisers. They have the blessings of the bipartisan, 70-member Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus and now say they are “echoing the call in President Trump’s joint address for the parties to get together and unite for the good of our country.”

That should please the president.

Things get underway on the steps of the U.S. Capitol early; find the group at NoLabels.org. The aforementioned caucus was activated last month and is chaired by Reps. Josh Gottheimer, New Jersey Democrat, and Tom Reed, New York Republican; their main mission is to “move American forward.”

FOX NEWS BESTS THE REST

President Trump drew a hefty audience during his speech before Congress on Tuesday night: 43 million viewers tuned in for the landmark political event, according to Nielsen Media Research numbers. Fox News emerged as the network of record: It was the most-watched channel in all of television with 10.8 million viewers, outpacing rivals in both the cable and broadcast realms. The closest contender was NBC, with 9.1 million. Among cable news channels, CNN had an audience of 3.9 million; MSNBC drew 2.6 million during the president’s well-received prime-time address.

The news media did not overlook the opportunity to offer some Trump-bashing in the aftermath, pointing out that former President Barack Obama enjoyed an audience of 52 million when he gave his first speech before Congress in 2009. Mr. Obama “dwarfed Trump’s speech,” declared Raw Story, while Variety noted, “The pundit class may be heaping praise on the performance, but the hour-long address failed to draw the same kind of audience as his predecessor did.” The Democratic National Committee described the numbers as “tiny ratings.”

Previous presidents set the records, however. Former President George W. Bush drew 62 million viewers during his first speech before Congress in 2003, just prior to the Iraq War. Former President Bill Clinton garnered 66.9 million viewers — which proved to be his largest audience while in office.

HOLLYWOOD HEAVYWEIGHT EYES 2020

It is not likely that Walt Disney would have run for the White House back in his time. The man who founded the ultimate Hollywood animation shop in 1923 and went on to win a record-breaking 22 Oscars was a Democrat until 1940, then became a staunch Republican. But he did not run for office. That may not be the case for current Disney CEO Bob Iger, who is apparently eyeing 2020 with interest. He’s certainly got connections, showbiz and otherwise.

“Sources add that he has consulted with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg about making the leap from the board room to high office (Bloomberg served as mayor of the nation’s largest city from 2002-12 despite no prior public service). Iger has plenty of friends in high places within the Democratic Party,” writes Tatiana Siegel, a correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter — who names Al Gore as one of those pals.

“A number of politically plugged-in industryites say they would welcome an Iger-led Democratic ticket. Others point out that President Trump, though wildly unpopular in Hollywood, has paved the way for a businessman who has never held public office to become the leader of the free world,” says Ms. Siegel.

POLL DU JOUR

• 78 percent of Americans had a positive reaction to President Trump’s speech before Congress; 99 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of independents and 46 percent of Democrats agree.

• 69 percent overall say Mr. Trump’s policies will move the country in the right direction; 98 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of independents and 30 percent of Democrats agree.

• 64 percent overall have confidence in his abilities to “carry out his duties as president”; 97 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of independents and 16 percent of Democrats agree.

• 64 percent overall say Mr. Trump’s policies are “just about right for the country”; 98 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of independents and 30 percent of Democrats agree.

• 63 percent overall say Mr. Trump has the “right priorities” when dealing with the nation’s pressing problems; 92 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of independents and 25 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A CNN/ORC poll of 509 U.S. adults who watched President Trump’s speech to Congress, conducted Feb. 28.

• Ballyhoo and balderdash to jharper@washingtontimes.com

 

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