Talk-radio hosts might be well-known political figures, but can they turn their popularity among listeners into a successful political campaign?
Dan Caplis might soon try to figure that out. The veteran conservative radio personality, who co-hosts an afternoon show weekdays with liberal counterpart Craig Silverman on KHOW-AM, says he’d like to decide by early May whether to run as a Republican for the U.S. Senate.
He’s already met with John Cornyn, the Texas senator who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, about a potential run. The main factor now, he says, is whether his kids (11-year-oldÂ Joe and 8-year-old Caroline) would be able to withstand the rigors of their dad running for Senate.
Caplis, who’s also a prominent Denver attorney, claims his talk-show career offers him a “tremendous starting point” from which to jump into politics, as it gives him a feel for what Coloradans want out of their elected officials–and gives Coloradans a feel for him, as well. The job has “essentially been like hosting a statewide electronic town hall for 17 years.”
But not many political hosts have been able to make the jump to elected office.
Al Franken, who hosted an Air America show before running for Senate in Minnesota, is perhaps the most prominent example (thoughÂ his race isÂ still in legal limbo). But most–even Rush Limbaugh, who many consider to be the current leader of the Republican Party–have stayed on the air and out of government.
Certainly, Caplis would start with a degree of name recognition–in the Denver-area market, at least. And there’s no clear-cut front-runner for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. (Other candidates mentioned include Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, Weld County District AttorneyÂ Ken Buck, and failed 2006 gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez.) And Caplis raised his profile in last year’s presidential campaign, emceeing several McCain/Palin rallies in Colorado.
While hosting a radio show would give Caplis a base of support from loyal listeners, it also earns a bad reputation among those who disagree with him. And opposition researchers dream of facing a candidate like Caplis, whoseÂ job isÂ to make political (and sometimes controversial) arguments on tape for three hours every weekday.
“There’s miles and miles and miles and miles and miles of sound bytes that people have on Dan Caplis, and I think that some of that stuff’s gonna come back to haunt him,” says Jay Marvin, a liberal talk host on KKZN-AM in Denver.
“I know for a fact that I wouldn’t run,” Marvin says. “Good lord, think of all the crazy stuff I’ve said on the air.”