Houston has always been a big Rush Limbaugh town -- it was one of the first to sign on to his show, when a small Tomball station run by Dan Patrick picked it up. (Patrick rode that rocket to KPRC and eventually a state-senator gig, much to the chagrin of people who don't think women seeking abortions should be forced to see sonograms.)
The Bush years were relatively tough for Rush, but now that Obama's in the White House he's reveling in rocketing ratings. Especially here in Houston.
"[Our] ratings are the best since PPM started in spring `07," Michael Berry, chief of AM operations for Clear Channel, tells Hair Balls. (PPM is Arbitron's new, improved method of counting listeners.) "It's unbelievable how strong our ratings are."
Conservative shows love non-conservative presidents, right?
"Rush, and talk generally, shot up this month," Berry says. "No doubt, Obama's lurch to the left helps conservative talk radio, because people want a place to talk about it."
One talk-radio industry website says the increase in Houston's Rush ratings are "truly blockbuster."
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"Houston's results were truly blockbuster: 6.0 to 9.8 overall, ranking number one with a bullet and audience of 382,300," reports TheRadio Equalizer, in what it terms a "web exclusive. "Men 35-64: number one again, from 8.6 to 12.2 over three months. Adults 25-54: first place, 4.6 to 8.7. Women 25-54: 3.7 to 8.3 again good for a top ranking."
Radio ratings are still more art than science, so any estimates of how many people listen to Limbaugh on a given day are suspect. (And that goes for whether it's conservatives trying to overestimate his audience or liberals trying to minimize it.)
Of course, Limbaugh has had the greatest ad campaign going, courtesy of leading Democrats trying to paint him as the face of the GOP. The ever-entertaining, if not always truthful, Limbaugh is running with that for all it's worth.
Whether that's a good thing for the Republican party remains to be seen. It's definitely a good thing for Rush Limbaugh, and for KTRH here in Houston.