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Monday, June 28, 2004

The Wraith of Howard Stern

Is this man going to cost George Bush the White House?

A Shock Jock Voting Bloc?

Published: June 27, 2004

WING voters may be in relatively short supply this year, but they definitely exist, and a surprising number of them may be listening to Howard Stern on their way to church.

A new analysis found that 21 percent of voters were either undecided or so tentatively committed to one presidential candidate that they would be willing to reconsider. That is low compared with the share of voters up for grabs at this point in past elections - 33 percent in 2000, 27 percent in 1996 and 31 percent in 1992 - but enough to give one candidate a decisive victory.

"People have been saying that this election will be a repeat of what we saw four years ago, but there is still a sizable number of voters with a favorable view of both candidates," said Andrew Kohut, the director of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which conducted the analysis. "The election might be close, but a candidate who did a really good job of reaching these persuadable voters could win by a gap of five percentage points or more."

Unfortunately for Republicans, a lot of these voters tune their radios to Mr. Stern, who has been crusading to oust President Bush. Mr. Stern is angry at the Federal Communications Commission, which cracked down on stations that broadcast a show of his that discussed anal sex and what the commission called "repeated flatulence sound effects."

Mr. Stern, who has backed Republican candidates in the past, has a mother lode of swing voters in his audience, according to a poll by the New Democrat Network, an advocacy group. Its pollster, Mark Penn, calculates that this "Stern Gang" of swing voters makes up 4 percent of the likely voters this year, nearly as large as the entire Hispanic vote in 2000.

But one bit of solace for Republicans is that Mr. Stern's listeners go to church frequently, which tends to correlate with voting Republican. The poll showed that Mr. Stern's listeners were slightly more likely than nonlisteners to call themselves born-again Christians and were three times more likely to attend church daily. The pollsters did not ask why they went to church after listening to Mr. Stern, so there is no way to calculate how many were performing an act of contrition.

The numbers NDN came up with are pretty impressive:

Stern rallies listeners to Kerry

Now, a new poll says Stern - with an estimated weekly audience of 8.5 million - could be Kerry's key to getting crucial swing voters on his bandwagon.

The survey, for the New Democrat Network, found Stern's listeners include 17% of likely voters, with a quarter being swing voters sought by both parties.

"This means that 4% of likely voters this fall are swing voters who listen to Howard Stern, showing Stern's potential impact on the race," the group said in statement yesterday.

The poll shows that Stern's fans in general support Kerry, by a margin of 53% to 43%.

In the 18 battleground states - including Arizona, Ohio, Colorado, West Virginia and Florida - Stern listeners go for Kerry by a margin of 59% to 37%. A whopping 34% of his faithful are independents.

The PEW study of swing voters lists some of the characteristics of this group:

Who Are the Swing Voters?

The profile of the uncommitted yields few clues about how they might break on Election Day. They are somewhat less engaged in the campaign: Only about one-in-five swing voters (21%) say they have closely followed news about the campaign. That compares with 38% of Kerry voters and 32% of Bush voters. In addition, fewer swing voters say they have given a lot of thought to the campaign ­ just 40% have thought a lot about the election, compared with 60% of Bush voters and 67% of Kerry voters.

Roughly half of swing voters (47%) approve of Bush's overall job performance, which is comparable to Bush's rating among certain voters (48%). Majorities in both groups give Bush positive marks on handling terrorism (57% each). But swing voters are somewhat less likely than other registered voters to approve of Bush's management of the economy and his handling of the war in Iraq.

Uncommitted voters tend to be more moderate in their political outlook than those who have settled on a candidate. In June, 49% described themselves as moderates, compared with 33% of committed voters. Similarly, 45% decline to identify with a party (including 38% who say they are independent), compared with just 26% among the committed. In the current survey, the swing vote group includes more Democrats than Republicans (36% vs. 18%), but that balance has fluctuated greatly over the past few months, as might be expected with voters who do not have strong political preferences.

Swing voters are not especially different from the overall electorate demographically. More are Catholic and fewer are white evangelicals, but otherwise they are not distinctive.

Moreover, swing voters express almost precisely the same issue priorities as voters who say they have already made up their minds. Among swing voters, 32% pick the economy as the most important issue for the candidates to discuss; 31% of those certain of their choice say the same. Similarly, 22% of swing voters want to hear about Iraq, but so too do 21% of the committed voters.

The Hill, the iundependent paper covering Congress, also looked that the NDN polling results:

Howard Stern says he can deliver swing votes to Kerry
New poll: Stern’s listeners favor Kerry over Bush by a 10-point margin
By Jonathan E. Kaplan

Radio shock jock Howard Stern is predicting that he will help deliver the heavily sought-after swing voters to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry this November.

On air yesterday, Stern told The Hill: “I’m both pro-Kerry and anti-Bush. More anti-Bush. I encourage people on the air and personally [to vote for him]. Here’s the deal, dude. It turns out the show has a lot of influence among swing voters, voters who are not Republican or Democrat, but intelligent enough to vote for the good candidate.”

Stern said he has never met Kerry but considers him a “good guy.”

Stern’s listeners support Kerry over President Bush by a 10-point margin, according to a poll released last week.

In recent months, Stern has repeatedly lambasted the Bush administration for its crackdown on “indecent material” and called on his listeners to vote the president out of office.

Stern himself is a swing voter. Besides a brief run for governor as a Libertarian, Stern used his position to back two Republican gubernatorial candidates in New York and New Jersey. Both George Pataki and Christie Todd Whitman beat Democratic incumbents. Whitman even promised to name a highway oasis after Stern, and put a plaque with his name in a bathroom along the New Jersey turnpike.

Stern’s vast audience includes 17 percent of likely voters, and they back Kerry 53 to 43 percent over Bush according to the poll. In so-called “battleground” states, Kerry beats Bush by 59 to 37 percent. The New Democrat Network (NDN), a centrist Democratic fundraising organization, commissioned Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, a Democratic firm, to conduct the poll.

On his website, Stern says that he is more influential than conservative radio hosts Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh because he claims his listeners are undecided voters and Hannity and Limbaugh’s listeners are Republicans.

Don Imus, a New York-based political talk show host, has said on his program that he also supports Kerry.

Nevertheless, the poll shows that voters whose main source of news is radio support Bush 52 to 46 percent, perhaps reflecting the dominance of conservative talk radio.

Scott Stanzel, a Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman, dismissed the poll’s results. “It’s a partisan Democratic poll from a partisan group that’s just one of the shadowy soft-money groups assisting the Kerry campaign,” he said.

Simon Rosenberg, the NDN’s executive director, responded, “Every poll they don’t like they trash.”

The Bush Administration may have overplayed their hand with Stern. While he was no Bush fan in the last few months, going after him has resulted in a show where Stern wants to hold a Scores party for people who've seen Fahrenheit 9/11, and did a glowing interview with Michael Moore on Friday. Instead of raising doubts about Bush, he supported Gore in 2000, he's attacking Bush every day.

Part of the problem is a serious misreading of the Stern audieince, which hardly the no-neck cretins one imagines. While many on the left hold their nose at an alliance with Stern, the reality is that his audience is the white, middle-class, ethnic audience which has been leaning Republican for more than two decades. The problem wasn't just that Stern was under assault by the FCC, but by Clear Channel, a long time booster of George Bush.

Passion of Howard Stern
The shock jock says radio colossus Clear Channel fired him because he criticized George Bush -- and he's sure as hell not going to go quietly.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Eric Boehlert

March 4, 2004 | From the moment last week when Clear Channel Communications suspended Howard Stern's syndicated morning show from the company's radio stations, denouncing it as "vulgar, offensive and insulting," speculation erupted that the move had more to do with Stern's politics than his raunchy shock-jock shtick.

Stern's loyal listeners, Clear Channel foes and many Bush administration critics immediately reached the same conclusion: The notorious jock was yanked off the air because he had recently begun trashing Bush, and Bush-friendly Clear Channel used the guise of "indecency" to shut him up. That the content of Stern's crude show hadn't suddenly changed, but his stance on Bush had, gave the theory more heft. That, plus his being pulled off the air in key electoral swing states such as Florida and Pennsylvania.

This week, Stern himself went on the warpath, weaving in among his familiar monologues about breasts and porn actresses accusations that Texas-based Clear Channel -- whose Republican CEO, Lowry Mays, is extremely close to both George W. Bush and Bush's father -- canned him because he deviated from the company's pro-Bush line. "I gotta tell you something," Stern told his listeners. "There's a lot of people saying that the second that I started saying, 'I think we gotta get Bush out of the presidency,' that's when Clear Channel banged my ass outta here. Then I find out that Clear Channel is such a big contributor to President Bush, and in bed with the whole Bush administration, I'm going, 'Maybe that's why I was thrown off: because I don't like the way the country is leaning too much to the religious right.' And then, bam! Let's get rid of Stern. I used to think, 'Oh, I can't believe that.' But that's it! That's what's going on here! I know it! I know it!"

Stern's been relentless all week, detailing the close ties between Clear Channel executives and the Bush administration, and insisting that political speech, not indecency, got him in trouble with the San Antonio broadcasting giant. If he hadn't turned against Bush, Stern told his listeners, he'd still be heard on Clear Channel stations.

In a statement released to Salon, the media company insists that "Clear Channel Radio is not operated according to any political agenda or ideology." Clear Channel Radio chief Joe Hogan said, "The decision to suspend Howard Stern from our radio stations is based on our regulatory obligation and commitment to airing material that conforms to the standards and sensibilities of the local communities we serve."

Although by far the most powerful, Stern is not the first radio jock to charge Clear Channel with retaliation for anti-Bush comments.

"I'm glad he's pissed off and I hope he raises hell every single day," says Roxanne Walker, who claims Clear Channel fired her last year because of her antiwar views. "I think any time a broader section of the population hears about the Bush administration and the Clear Channel connection, it's a good thing."

Walker, South Carolina Broadcasters Association's 2002 radio personality of the year, is suing Clear Channel for violating a state law that forbids employers from punishing employees who express politically unpopular beliefs in the workplace.

"On our show we talked about politics and current events," she tells Salon. "There were two conservative partners and me, the liberal, and that was fine. But as it became clear we were going to war, and I kept charging the war was not justified, I was reprimanded by [Clear Channel] management that I needed to tone that down. Basically I was told to shut up." She says she was fired on April 7, 2003.

Phoenix talk show host Charles Goyette says he was kicked off his afternoon drive-time program at Clear Channel's KFYI because of his sharp criticism of the war on Iraq. A self-described Goldwater Republican who was selected "man of the year" by the Republican Party in his local county in 1988, Goyette -- more recently named best talk show host of 2003 by the Phoenix New Times -- says his years with Clear Channel had been among his best in broadcasting. "The trouble started during the long march to war," he says.

While the rest of the station's talk lineup was in a pro-war "frenzy," Goyette was inviting administration critics like former weapons inspector Scott Ritter on his show, and discussing complaints from the intelligence community that the analysis on Iraq was being cooked to support the White House's pro-war agenda. This didn't go over well with his bosses, Goyette says: "I was the Baby Ruth bar in the punch bowl."

Soon, according to Goyette, he was having "toe-to-toe confrontations" with his local Clear Channel managers off the air about his opposition to the war. "One of my bosses said in a tone of exasperation, 'I feel like I'm managing the Dixie Chicks,'" Goyette recalls. "I didn't fit in with the Clear Channel corporate culture."

Writing in the February issue of American Conservative magazine, Goyette put it this way: "Why only a couple of months after my company picked up the option on my contract for another year in the fifth-largest city in the United States, did it suddenly decide to relegate me to radio Outer Darkness? The answer lies hidden in the oil-and-water incompatibility of these two seemingly disconnected phrases: 'Criticizing Bush' and 'Clear Channel.'"

What all this has led to is four hours of Stern cursing George Bush and feeding into things like pushing people to see Moore's film. Is it a political disaster? Not yet, but it has the makings of one. Even Stern's website is now a collection of anti-Bush articles, among the Playboy evaluations and links to DVD porn. In addition to the pictures of the cast and crew, there are several anti-Bush picture galleries. Stern, who had left his website undeveloped for years, and only posted the odd nude picture or drunken cast member shot, now has a full on, archived, deeply linked website. It's updated daily with new content and links to a ton of anti-Bush stories. Sure, some of the content is racy in that male, heterosexual way, and it lacks a blog, but it is a professionally done website driven by intense anger at Bush and the people around him.

This is just one of the stories highlighted on Stern's website today:

Victims upset at Bush's praise of ex-con
They say embezzler hasn't paid them restitution

By Gregory Korte
Enquirer staff writer

Touting his program to rehabilitate ex-offenders in Cincinnati on Monday, President Bush put his arm on Tami Jordan's shoulder and called the convicted embezzler a "good soul" and an "inspirational person."

But the victims of Jordan's crime - a small, family-owned business in Fairfield that lost $308,170 to Jordan's deception - say she isn't rehabilitated and hasn't paid the court-ordered restitution.

Susan Morin with her two daughters, Cindy (left) and Carolyn, run a small family business in Fairfield.
(Tony Jones photo)

"Of all the people in Cincinnati they could pick out as an example, and they picked her," said Susan Morin, the owner of Gorman Supply Inc. "She's on the front page of every paper, sitting with the most powerful man in the country, and I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to pay my bills next week. Is that fair? Where's my federal program?"

In the town hall-style meeting at a Corryville halfway house, Bush highlighted Jordan as an example of how faith-based programs can help rehabilitate ex-offenders.

The president called on Congress to commit $112 million over two years for drug treatment, student loans and housing for ex-offenders. Rep. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, introduced that bill, the Second Chance Act of 2004, Wednesday.

Republicans and Democrats at all levels of government - from Cincinnati Vice Mayor Alicia Reece to the Republican president - are putting an increased emphasis on rehabilitation.

All agree that the government should do more to help convicted felons become productive citizens after they've paid their debt to society.

As the Jordan case shows, people will disagree about how large that debt is. Jordan spent 21/2 years in the Ohio Reformatory for Women and six months at the Talbert House before being freed in August.

While Jordan worked at Talbert house, a small part of her wages were garnished. But now that she's off parole, she hasn't paid a cent of the remaining $310,000 in restitution, the Morins said.

"If she stole $310,000 from someone and still hasn't paid it back, that would make me very unhappy," said Robin Piper, prosecutor in Butler County, where Jordan was convicted. "Quite honestly, I liked the old parole system, where if they didn't make payments, they run the risk of going back to prison. Now when they do their time, they're out."

Why is Stern's poised to have such a potential impact? While the GOP can denigrate Move and call Al Gore crazy, they do so at their own peril with Stern. A man with a vicious angry streak, loyal fans and five hours of air time today is a dangerous opponent. And unlike Rush the junkie and Sean "too stupid to think" Hannity, his audience is ideologically diverse. The FCC attack has backfired on them, any escalation could make things that much worse.

Also, the reality is that Bush's campaign ads aren't working, according to Sidney Blumenthal, while Stern's assault is:

Since March 3, the Bush-Cheney campaign has spent an estimated $80m on mostly negative advertising, to eliminate Kerry at the starting gate. The strategy was the acceleration of the lesson of Bush's father's victorious effort in the 1988 campaign when, 17 points behind in mid-summer, he shattered Michael Dukakis with a withering negative attack.

Now, Bush's opponent is not only moving ahead, but the failed assault may insulate Kerry against future offensives. Bush had every reason to believe that his attack on Kerry's image would succeed. After September 11, he was able to impose his explanations on the public almost without resistance and to taint anyone who contradicted them as somehow unpatriotic.

With Congress in Republican hands, checks and balances were effectively removed. Most of the media was on the bandwagon or intimidated. Cheney himself called the president of the corporation that owned one of the networks to complain about an errant commentator. Political aides directed by Karl Rove ceaselessly called editors and producers with veiled threats about access that was not granted in any case. The press would not bite the hand that would not feed it.

But Bush's projection of images can only faintly be seen on the screen, which is overwhelmed with Bush's past images of triumph unreeling in reverse. The majority of the people had supported the war in Iraq because they believed that Saddam was involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11. Bush envisioned the Iraqi war unfolding into a new world order: the liberation of Iraq resembling the liberation of France, democracy flowering throughout the Middle East, and the Palestinians submitting quietly to Sharon's fait accompli .

But the neoconservative prophesies had been advanced by suppressing the scepticism of the US intelligence agencies, the military and the state department. Without deranging and dismissing the professionalism of the basic institutions of national security, Bush would not have been able to sustain his reasons. Bush's battle is not with image, but with the unravelling of his reality.

Having Howard Stern against you doesn't help you either.

posted by Steve @ 10:50:00 AM

10:50:00 AM

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