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The one thing that makes me take Donald Trump seriously as a candidate — Rush Limbaugh

Is Rush ready for Trump?
Is Rush ready for Trump?
David Cannon/Getty Images

Conventional wisdom says that despite his lead in the polls, Donald Trump can't win the Republican Party presidential nomination.

And I agree with that. At least, I agree with it six days a week.

The other day, I am paying attention to Rush Limbaugh.

When Trump's diss of John McCain's military service became a cudgel for people to use against him, Limbaugh called it a "teachable moment" about how "the Washington establishment and media" operate, and he predicted that Trump would survive it by refusing to back down. On Thursday, Limbaugh took a victory lap on Trump's behalf, saying "Trump beat back the outrage machine."

It would be going too far to say that Limbaugh is supporting Trump. But he's not not supporting Trump. And he's certainly not trying to destroy Trump.

This matters because major conservative mass media entrepreneurs arguably count as influential party leaders just as much as members of Congress or governors. And it's not obvious that Rush and his fellow talk radio stars especially share a conventional politician's cynical interest in winning elections. Trump versus Clinton would be a heck of a show, and a Democrat in the White House is probably better for ratings anyway. David Frum has long worried that conservative talk radio has this kind of perverse incentive to push the GOP in tactically unsound directions.

All of which is to say that it's at least conceivable that important elements of the conservative media would rally around Trump, and that would give him a form of establishment support that he thus far desperately lacks.

This is probably good news for Jeb Bush

Still, the more likely scenario is that this is simply all good news for Jeb Bush.

Bush's greatest weakness in the campaign is that Scott Walker is an utterly plausible nominee who has a clearly more conservative record in office. Every day that conservative talk radio is not talking about this is a good day for Jeb Bush. Trump is simply a much, much, much, much less plausible nominee than Walker or Rick Perry or even Ted Cruz. Conservative media supporting Walker is a real threat to Bush. Conservative media chasing after a shiny Trump-shaped object is, objectively, a favor to Bush because it sucks up oxygen that his lesser-known rivals need.