Calvin Freiburger

Do Republicans Owe Their Control of the House to Sean Hannity?

Posted on November 16 2010 6:00 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

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Republicans can attribute their success in taking back the House of Representatives to numerous factors: the Tea Party movement, unemployment, the people’s sense that the federal government’s overreaching Democrat leaders weren’t listening to them, and…Sean Hannity?

There’s no doubt that talk radio generally is a potent force for promoting conservative politics, but the American Spectator’s Jeffrey Lord thinks the Fox News superstar’s efforts merit special attention, going so far as to call the GOP’s new home “The House That Hannity Built.” Lord starts with an example of how the Hannity brand’s formidable fundraising power helped jump-start pessimistic Republican campaigns in early 2010, then dives into his main argument—that Hannity’s insistence on holding the party to its principles made all the difference, both on issues…

Boehner, who had never personally taken earmarks, had seemed to balk on the subject when asked by Fox Sunday host Chris Wallace in a September appearance. Post-election, any doubts Boehner may have had have vanished, his new members insisting the practice be stopped.

The fault line here between Establishment Republicans in both the House and Senate is significant, and Hannity’s role in supporting the latest chapter in what was once called the Reagan Revolution is considerable.

Effectively, Sean Hannity’s programs (along with those of Mark Levin) became much sought-after stops for GOP candidates who were symbolic of the anti-Establishment or anti-Ruling Class sentiment that has not only swept the country this year but began taking over the Republican Party itself — way back in 1964. The increasingly visible struggle between the GOP Senate Establishment and South Carolina’s Jim DeMint, a frequent Hannity guest, is if nothing else simply the latest version of the showdown that has erupted over the years between Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Jack Kemp and Bush 41 and so on.

…and on candidates:

While he was a champion to House Republicans, it was no secret that Hannity had gone out of his way to lend a hand to O’Donnell — the conservative underdog in the GOP Delaware Senate primary who upended the state’s hidebound Establishment by defeating liberal GOP Rep. Mike Castle. Yet while he had done the same for any number of conservative House and Senate candidates, the O’Donnell episode came to symbolize the difference between rank-and-file conservatives and the GOP Washington Establishment wobblies.

O’Donnell’s campaign was under attack within minutes — literally — of her considerable primary night victory, from a source identified on-air by Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron as being tied to the NRSC. There was an immediate uproar. So much so that by the next morning the NRSC chairman, Texas Senator John Cornyn, had seemingly moved to soothe troubled waters by assuring that money from the NRSC — a committee which has as its sole job raising and spending money to elect Republican Senators — was en route to O’Donnell.

By October, while Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele had rallied to her side along with others (among them Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Lamar Alexander), it was plain the O’Donnell camp believed the NRSC was balking at helping her as much as it could.

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