We don't think so.
While talk radio can be influential, things have changed radically since those dark days that re-elected George Bush and brought such shame and catastrophe down upon the land.
There's more liberal talk radio
Air America did not exist in 2004; and Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, Stephanie Miller, Randi Rhodes, Thom Hartmann, Sam Seder, Marc Maron, Mike Malloy, et al. were but local hosts or unknowns. While they're not close to being Big Pants, Hannity or Don Imus, they're competition on the dial to the conservatives, and even within a shrinking industry, progressive radio is growing one talker at a time. We now have a crop of bright, name-recognizable media progressives where there never were before. A good thing.
There's a general downturn in radio, and in talk radio in particular
Part of this can be directly attributed to the stink of Bush, the failings of a conservative majority and that the yapping poodles of right-wing media have been so wrong about so much. They've stuck to a political explanation of global warming, powdered Iraq War soft drinks, voodoo fiscal matters, tax cuts for the rich, immigration fear-mongering, Bush's no-policy energy policy; American exceptionalist go-it-alone foreign policy -- they even still claim Bush is competent.The wild-eyed partisan recitations of such GOP apparatchiks as Hannity have left him and his cohort with about the same credibility as the president's... and Arbitron reflects it. As the Democrats come together after the hard primaries, Rush Limbaugh's supposedly monkeywrenching "Operation Chaos" turned out to be as it was intended: a way for Big Pants to get his name in the papers and to be able to piss in a tent from which he's usually excluded.
In the bigger picture, lazy programmers with an if-it-ain't-broke mentality waited until it was; never bothering to diversify the political orientations of talkers or spend the time and money developing forms other than the old style rile-'em-up-&-make-'em-call-you radio. It's all entertainment, they hasten to say, but they sat on the successful formatics of the 1990's until it wasn't entertaining anymore. Like stubborn vaudeville promoters hanging onto minstrel shows despite the movies. (Ironic should talk radio die because it didn't respond to the market; the sacredness of which it's been tooting ad pukeum all these years...).
Many potential new voters don't listen to talk radio, never did
Since 2004, the boom-echo generation has come of age. They didn't participate much last time, and it remains to be seen if they will this time. But every indication is that they're involved in an unprecedented way with the Obama campaign. Here's a massive demographic that, when you say "Sean Hannity," they say, "who?"
New media not only exists now, but the left is using it best
We were aghast at how the right made better use of the Interweb in 2004. Blogs, and talk radio spread the phony Swift Boating smears, promoted the shameful downgrading of Kerry's war heroism, and discovered the crude document forgery that eclipsed the fact that Bush had skipped out on his Texas Air National Guard service. Locally, Stefan Shortpantsky on his Sound Politics blog dribbled out irrelevant numbers in the tight recount of votes in the governor's race which led local media and made voters believe there was voter fraud. All this was a great wake-up call to progressives who responded with a vengeance, and have since dominated the political internets. The online media are broader, vibrant, younger, innovating, and metastasizing -- not shriveling as radio is at the moment. The left is dominating it. Barack's extraordinary campaign has demonstrated, the net has the added value of being super for fundraising and organizing at which talk radio was only haphazard.
Barack Obama has a pulse (and quite a bit more, actually).
Talk radio was born in the excitement of the 1994 Republican landslide, and may well die off in the 2008 liberal one. Olde John excites few outside the lawn chair industry, and hearing his speech the other night, his embarrassing communications skills make Bush look presidential -- and that's just what the Republicans say. Conservatives still distrust McCain -- influential and widely imitated radio talkers Hannity and Limbaugh are schizophrenic, trashing Obama one minute, McCain the next. "For McCain, one master narrative stands out above all in the coverage—that he is not a true or reliable conservative," according to a Pew Research study tracking news media coverage. We heard Big Pants last week letting a listener go on about how he's going to vote for Obama so the Republicans won't get blamed for what he predicts will be a disaster if either candidate is elected. "At least it won't be on the R's watch," he said. Big Pants didn't argue with him. It's such dissatisfaction and mixed messages from prominent righties that could keep the less motivated conservative voters at home in November.
(Turns out, the Republicans' -- Hannity's, Ingraham's, Limbaugh's -- rumor batting
around talk radio and Washington about the supposed existence of a Michelle Obama
video calling white people "whitey," sounds suspiciously like
it was ripped off from the potboiling plot of a cliche-ridden
political novel. Despite there's no evidence it exists, and there's no
one who says they ever saw it, it became a news story when a reporter
asked Barack about it, which completed the dirty trick circle. Expect
more of this: it's all they've got).
The emerging left-leaning teevee
Despite what the paranoid right says about the "liberal media," MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann is about the only unabashedly leftly opinionated show on cable. He's threatening the Fox News' 24-hour ratings lock with their stable of O'Reilly, Hannity, Karl Rove, Fred Barnes, Charles Krauthammer, Billy Kristol; not to mention the vapidly reactionary morning shows and the alleged "news anchor," Brit Hume. Keith is a great start, and we hope MSNBC sees there might be ratings gelt in the younger, hipper demo who Olbermann brings every day. Their recognition and promotion of Rachel Maddow is a great sign: we expect to be seeing her on Meet The Press, or The McLaughlin Report soon.
(O'Reilly seems intent on stoking his parochial feud with NBC and running sensational sex crime vids, cell phone camera feeds of orgies and girl-fights. At the moment, he's bending over backwards to appear fair & balanced with Obama until he finally gets him in for an interview. For now he lets smashmouths like Laura Ingraham slash Obama while he tsk-tsks mildly. After Barack finally sits down to let Billo lecture him, ask beat-your-wife questions, and shouts at him for talking to NBC first, he'll then say he's a "stand-up guy for daring to come in here." (Like he's Mike Wallace). Then he'll '"analyze it" and then start crapping in Barack's hat every day. That's what he does. He did to John Kerry. It won't matter much to the campaign; Billo will reap a big rating hump for one day; will quote, and reference himself for weeks; then start selling mugs emblazoned with "I crapped in his hat.").