Opinion: Rush Shares the Moment He Saved the Trump Campaign in '16

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

As a bookend to my Monday piece on longtime conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh’s announcement during his first show of the new week that his advanced-stage lung cancer has “progressed” [see: LISTEN: Rush Shares His Cancer Has Returned, but Listeners Ended up With Hopeful Message], I thought this more politics-centered piece on the broadcaster’s look back at the presidential election in 2016 would interest Rush’s many, dedicated fans, and other Americans who might have missed the show.

During the second hour of Wednesday’s “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” a caller’s question prompted the host to talk about how his view of then-candidate Donald Trump evolved during the Republican primary season — and Rush said it was because of one specific incident that his thinking turned around and he realized that Trump could actually win the nomination (and, consequently) the White House.

Listener Patrick from Golden, Colorado, asked:

“I would love to hear other Trump supporters weigh in on the simple question, ‘When did you know?’ And that’s in regards to, when did people realize that Donald Trump was going to be the single greatest political opportunity of our lifetimes?”

He continues, the sound of exasperation creeping into his voice:

“During the 2016 primaries, I didn’t take Donald Trump very seriously; I thought it was a political stunt. I didn’t know who he was. Then, when he became the nominee, I was honestly a little disappointed. But I slowly warmed up to him. (I was a big Ted Cruz guy.)

Rush interjects to ask Patrick what it was that disappointed him about Trump at that point. The answer: “I just didn’t believe he was serious.”

He went on:

“A couple days before the second [presidential] debate, [the] ‘Access Hollywood’ [tape] hit, and I thought, ‘We’re screwed. We messed up big time.’ I tuned into that debate, and I didn’t expect it to go well.”

The caller laughs, admitting to Rush, “I thought it was over.” Then his voice quavers with obvious emotion: (emphasis added)

“And oh my gosh, what does Trump do? He sat Bill [Clinton’s] accusers in the front row. He immediately dismissed the ‘Access Hollywood’ video as ‘locker room talk’… which is the freaking truth…and then, he proceeded to demolish Hillary.

And I could not believe what I saw and heard. I have never seen that kind of strength, spirit, fearlessness, and leadership before.

And that’s when I knew he was going to be the greatest president of my lifetime. And I’m so sorry for what the media and Democrats have done to him and put him through Hell.

Patrick wraps up his testimonial by thanking Pres. Trump “for what [he’s] done for us,” then says:

“I’ve just never seen someone fight like that, and that would have taken out anybody else, and I just couldn’t believe that he was able to beat that back in that fashion, and that’s when I knew. And I feel like a lot of hard-core Trump supporters warmed up to him, and there came a certain point when they just knew and it hit ’em, and that was just amazing.”

Here’s how Rush answered Patrick’s query, and I think it only underlines how crucial Limbaugh has been to the longevity and recent successes of the Conservative movement.

He said, in part:

“You know, it really is a great question. His question is, “When did you various Trump supporters out there…? When did you know? When did you know that Trump could win and thus you were gonna get behind him and vote for him? When did you know that?” I’ll tell you when I knew it. I have announced this on previous broadcast occasions.

I watched like everybody else did the June the 15th trip down the escalator at Trump Tower with the ensuing announcement. I watched it in open-mouthed, gaping-mouthed, disbelief. I said, ‘What is this? There is nobody serious about winning the presidency that is gonna do it this way!’ But I kept watching, and that whole announcement built and built and built.


And then about a week later, here came the first series of polls. The first series of polls had Trump dominating. The people that saw that announcement literally ate it up. They loved it.”

It was at that point, Rush said, that he thought: “He can win. This guy can pull this off.”

“… I said, “Well, that’s it. I think he’s gonna win this if he’s serious about it and stays in.”


There was a lot of talk about it was a PR stunt, trying to set up a new TV show, The Apprentice Jr., whatever it was.”

But then, the “Access Hollywood” smear dropped. And Rush told listeners that he did something he hadn’t done up to that point — he reached out to the campaign:

….[T]he only thing that scared me about the Access Hollywood video bit was that the campaign people around Trump would have him deal with it the wrong way….Whatever I had to say or think about the campaign, I said it here. But I knew who the people were and knew how to reach ’em. So I fired off emails.

I said, ‘Whatever you do, do not apologize for this! Whatever you do, do not express regret for this at all — and I’ll tell you why. This is an October Surprise.


I said, ‘If you people in the Trump camp, if you hang tough, this is not gonna hurt you. You can win this thing. You can triumph over this thing.’ I firmly believed it. I really believed the American people are fed up with these October Surprises. They’re fed up with this stuff.”

He warned Trump’s advisors that the only thing that could break the “bond” their candidate had with his supporter was one thing: Trump himself.

“The media couldn’t do it. The Democrats couldn’t do it. We’ve been there, done that. I’ve said all this countless times. And I said, ‘This is not going to constitute breaking the bond, as long as he doesn’t go all wishy-washy and apologize.’ And he didn’t.”

Rush added that three members of the campaign responded to his missives, and thanked him for his sage advice. We should all be grateful that he had the insight to give it, too.

During his conclusion, Rush nails the media’s and the Democrats’ (but I repeat myself) on-going frustration over why Trump won’t go down when hit with “scandal” after “scandal”:

“The fact that it bombed out to this day has left the Democrat Party nearly insane that it didn’t work.”

Listener Patrick’s story was like reliving my own, 2016 experience all over again. You might have gone through some of the same thoughts and feelings while reading it, too.

But as I mentioned in Thursday night’s VIP piece, “The Non-Voter in 2020,” in which I shared the personal story of another man: one who admitted to me he won’t be taking part in the 2020 election. I encourage you to read it, and hear out his very valid reasons why. Let them motivate you to run, not walk, to the voting booth for the president this time.

As for me, I voted early yesterday. And there was no question in my mind whom I would choose for president and vice president: I pulled the lever for Donald J. Trump and Mike Pence.

How do you respond to Patrick’s open question to Trump supporters? What was the moment or event during the 2016 election that made you go, “Aha! Donald Trump is the real deal, after all”? Leave your answer in the comments area below!