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Update: Three pundits now want O’Reilly’s radio listeners

Three pundits want O'Reilly Listners

Three pundits want O'Reilly Listners

First there was one conservative talk host seeking Bill O’Reilly’s lunchtime radio audience, then two, and now three. All have legit conservative bona fides, but style-wise they are as different as wine, beer and hard liquor.

O’Reilly’s “The Radio Factor” from Fox Radio News had 3.25 million listeners on 425 stations, placing him only behind Rush Limbaugh in radio popularity during lunch. O’Reilly pulled the show off the air on Jan. 29 so he could spend more time working on his television efforts. The 425 stations now have the choice of airing either a Fox designated replacement, or the two other hosts.

Michael Smerconish is the new entrant with “The Michael Smerconish Program,” which began airing this month. An illustration of Smerconish hosting style occurred late last year, when, in one day, he was the substitute host for O’Reilly at lunch and the left-leaning Chris Matthews on “Hardball” in the evening. With that type of neutrality, bloggers crowned Smerconish as the Switzerland of talk: a little biased, but not to the point where others are drowned out.

Radio regular and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson comes to the air March 2 with his own show, bringing a folksy wisdom that on his good days can be Reaganesque, and on his bad days critics call dull. Thompson starred on NBC’s “Law & Order” and was a Republican presidential candidate in 2008.

The official Fox replacement remains John Gibson of “The John Gibson Show,” which began airing in January. Gibson is known as an acquired, jolt-in-the mouth taste. He makes brutal jokes about people in the news, and holds nothing back as he discusses issues and brings on guests.

Will there be any more shows for someone seeking a midday conservative radio audience to pitch? A new liberal administration certainly presents more to talk about, and O’Reilly is leaving a vacuum. Four, however, seems like the tipping point. Limbaugh will stay on top; expect to see a solid runner-up emerge, and one (or both) of these three newcomers fall away.

–Michael Blankenheim

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