Why Conservative Talker Michael Smerconish Endorsed Obama

By Chris Ariens 

Gail Shister
TVNewser Columnist

Philadelphia radio talker Michael Smerconish, a life-long Republican, swears he’s not using his Obama endorsement today to land a fulltime spot on increasingly liberal MSNBC.

Smerconish, an MSNBC regular, shares the lineup at WPHT-AM with staunch conservatives Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

Though Smerconish denies he’s in their category, his Barack Obama announcement immediately triggered more than 400 vitriolic emails from listeners — a personal record.

“Some were awfully nasty,” says the best-selling author of Muzzled: From T-Ball to Terrorism. “Many said they would never listen to me again. The passion in this election is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been around for a while.”

Smerconish’s radio contract expires Dec. 31. Buzz says he won’t re-sign unless the station takes him national. His exclusive deal with MSNBC is up in the spring. He appears three times a week, on Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” and on David Gregory’s “Race to the White House.”

Backing Obama will not win him points with either employer, Smerconish insists.

As a precaution, however, he gave a heads-up to his radio boss about the endorsement and he responded with a supportive email, Smerconish says.

Still, in the radio industry “listeners are surrounded by people who work them into a lather all day. I’m in a business where ideologues get rewarded. You tow the party line, and in talk radio the party line is very conservative.”

By the same token, he says he didn’t do himself any favors at MSNBC, either. (Not that there are any prime-time openings there.)

“I’ll never be Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann. Those aren’t my politics. In the cable world, those who succeed are very doctrinaire in their views, with some exceptions.”

Politically, Smerconish dismisses the traditional labels, preferring to define himself as “reasonable.” Still, his credentials are awfully Red State — “I’ve never pulled the ‘D’ lever at the top and I’ve worked for a lot of ‘R’s,” he says.

One of them was President George H. W. Bush, who appointed Smerconish a regional administrator for HUD at age 29. Four years ago, Smerconish served as master of ceremonies for a George W. Bush rally in Pennsylvania that drew a crowd of 20,000.

“People naturally assume I’m a Republican, without asking me anything about social issues,” he says.

OK, we’re asking.

“I want to kill Al-Qaeda. I don’t care what two guys do in their bedroom. I’m pro choice. I believe pot and prostitution should be legalized, and I’m for torture.”

And you’re for Obama because…

“He’s right and McCain’s wrong on where we should be fighting terrorists. He has the intellect to address the economy. Also, we have a fatherhood problem in the minority community, and he would be a great role model for kids who are growing up and killing each other.

“He’s better suited to be a unifier.”