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Limbaugh’s legions are everywhere, even in D.C.
Cabs lined up with engines idling outside Washington’s historic Omni Shoreham Hotel about 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Drivers were waiting to sweep away thousands of guests who soon would depart the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), but nobody was leaving yet, and so the drivers waited.
“When does Rush speak?” asked a stocky driver in a blue hooded sweatshirt.
“He just started speaking,” I answered.
“Oh, man, I wish I could be there,” the driver said. “He is great.”
He came to America from Nigeria in 1983. A quarter-century later, he now drives his cab in the nation’s capital to pay tuition for his daughter, Seun, a freshman biochemistry major at Maryland’s St. Mary’s College, whose school emblem adorned the blue hoodie Onakoya wore Saturday with paternal pride.
Onakoya has been a loyal Dittohead for years. He explained that not all who ride in his cab appreciate his radio habit of listening to Limbaugh from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays.
“Some people say he is the second coming of the devil,” Onakoya said with a deep baritone chuckle.
The driver of Fairway No. 1 said he had often been told such things, but began tuning in regularly after seeing billboard advertisements for Limbaugh’s broadcast on WMAL-AM.
“I see the sign and I say, ‘I will listen to him.’ Since that day, I never change my station.…He is a man, you know,” Onakoya said with emphasis. “He is not all wishy-washy.”
Onakoya again expressed the wish that he could hear Limbaugh’s speech, but the hotel’s Regency Ballroom was packed to fire-code capacity, and CPAC attendees also filled two additional ballrooms to watch the speech on closed-circuit TV. Others gathered for the final day of the annual conference were watching on plasma screens in the hotel corridors, in the basement exhibition hall, and in the lobby bar, which was unusually quiet for the occasion. Yet while thousands at CPAC and millions coast-to-coast watched what Rush called his “first address to the nation,” the Dittohead cabbie was missing out.
“Come on,” I told Onakoya. “I know where you can watch it.”
I stubbed out my cigarette, and the driver of Fairway No. 1 followed me through a side door of the hotel into a private hospitality suite hosted by Victory Solutions, a rapidly growing political technology firm. I’d met the company’s president, Shannon Burns, while covering last month’s RNC meeting, and had gladly acted on his encouragement to bring fellow journalists to enjoy the hospitality suite’s amenities during the conference.
The crowd gathered inside the Victory Solutions suite Saturday was watching Limbaugh’s speech in respectful silence, and no one noticed as Onakoya and I entered quietly through the side door and stood near the back of the room.
“For those of you just tuning in on Fox News or C-SPAN,” the man on the big-screen TV was saying, “I am Rush Limbaugh, and I want everyone in this room, and every one of you around the country, to succeed. I want anyone who believes in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to succeed.…The American people may not all vote as we would wish them to, but more Americans live their lives as conservatives in one degree or another. They are waiting for leadership.”
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