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Confessions of a “Call Screener”

It’s a running joke on the Mark Davis Show. Mark will take a call that I’ve placed in the queue, and the caller will say, “Yeah, Mark, I was talking to your call screener,” prompting Mark to play a drop of me saying — in a deservedly, condescending tone — “pro-duuuu-cer.”

I am not a call screener. I’m the producer, but yes . . . I do screen the calls.

With that out of the way, I’d like to share some things I’ve observed as the 2012 primary season has kicked into high gear and delivered to us four very different options for the ticket. My observations aren’t about the candidates themselves, rather they are about the callers who support them.

I’ll break it down by candidate:

Newt Gingrich callers: These folks loathe President Obama and want nothing more than to see Newt reduce him to a pile of rubble on the debate stage. It’s strange … prior to Newt’s win in South Carolina (and subsequent rise in national polls), Newt callers focused more on his accomplishments as Speaker — and rightfully so. But, I haven’t heard the words “Republican Revolution” in the longest time, as now it’s all about the political fantasy of Newt’s big brain beating down Obama and humiliating him. Nevermind that debates don’t win general elections; they don’t care, and you can practically hear them salivating on air. They’re a smart group of folks who identify with the intellectual “Buckleyesque” brand of conservatism. Newt callers are full of righteous anger and come across as indignant as the candidate himself.

Ron Paul callers: It seems pointless to even discuss this. We’ve all seen their online antics. Their methods on the radio are no different. They call and immediately tell me that Mark doesn’t know what he’s talking about, that I am naive, that I need to read the Constitution, that we need to get our facts straight, that there’s a difference between “isolationist” and “non-interventionist” (I get it, already), and that they’re sure I won’t put them on the radio because Mark’s too scared to talk to them — after which I immediately put them on air and watch Mark do what Mark does best.

Mitt Romney callers: These are the “play it safe” callers. The accountant types. The engineers. The process-minded folks. I doubt they meet on the weekends to go cliff rappelling, and they don’t get excited about much of anything. They only know how to do what, to them, makes the most logical sense. Romney has the money and the organization, and they connect this (rightfully so, or not) to success. Nevermind that “hope and change” and emotional propaganda delivered an Obama victory in 2008. These folks don’t care about Mitt’s perceived lack of passion, or his challenges in connecting with voters. Aside from, “He’s a brilliant business man,” I seldom hear references to his record in Massachusetts (for obvious reasons, I assume). Also, far too often my discussions with Romney callers lead to theological debates in which we argue over who Jesus really is. (Yes, I’m saying that we’re inundated with calls from Mormons who — from all appearances — are behind Mitt 100%.)

Rick Santorum callers: So passionate, so frustrated, and so ready to have a president full of integrity, these folks are the ones with whom, I admit, I most identify. Willing to overlook hiccups that will sometimes occur over the course of a long legislative record, Santorum callers speak most of his character. They love his willingness to call it like it is, and even when foreign policy isn’t the story of the day, they rave about his tough stance against radical Islam and his willingness to confront the nuclear threat of Iran. Contrary to the widely reported (and overblown) “gender gap” I have more women call in support of Santorum than men. Aside from the people who call him “Santor-i-um” — an error that I tire of correcting — they are savvy callers who hate the thought of “President Romney” almost as much they do that of President Obama. They are family people. They are Reagan people. They are Christian people. And they are, most important, willing to fight until to the end for their guy — because they feel that he’s fighting for them.

It will be interesting to see how these caller groups evolve over the coming months. As their candidates of choice rise and fall in the polls, and as the inevitability of our nominee becomes more clear, will they stick to their guns or will their support shift? Will they pray for a convention miracle or will they take one for the team and concede? All I can do is state what I see from my humble producer’s perch, and pray that, whatever the outcome, it’s one that facilitates not just the defeat of Barack Obama, but a return to the energy and principles that united our party just two short years ago.

I’ll report back. Thanks for reading,

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