I have long thought that radio is underrated when it comes to its power and influence in listeners’ lives.

Radio’s power has been demonstrated once again in recent weeks with the controversy around Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh drew the attention of none other than the new President of the United States.He told Republican congressional leaders that “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.”

Then, GOP congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia defended congressional Republicans against criticism by Limbaugh. Quoted in an article on politico.com, he stated: “I mean, it’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh…to stand back and throw bricks. You don’t have to try to do what’s best for your people and your party. You know you’re just on these talk shows.” The next day, after being inundated with phone calls and emails, Gingrey then went on Limbaugh’s show to beg forgiveness:

GINGREY: Rush, thank you so much. I thank you for the opportunity, of course this is not exactly the way to I wanted to come on. … Mainly, I want to express to you and all your listeners my very sincere regret for those comments I made yesterday to Politico. … I clearly ended up putting my foot in my mouth on some of those comments. … I regret those stupid comments.

This past Saturday, Limbaugh closed the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual meeting in Washington As Fox, CNN and C-SPAN carried his speech live. Later in the day, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele appeared on CNN’s D.L. Hughley Breaks the News. Hughley referred to Limbaugh as “the de facto leader of the Republican Party.” Steele objected…

STEELE: I’m the de facto leader of the Republican Party….Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh, his whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it’s incendiary. Yes, it’s ugly.

Limbaugh fired back on his radio show Monday, and by that night, Steele backtracked: “My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele said in a telephone interview. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”

I guess we now know who the real leader of the Republican Party is!

The fact is: Limbaugh is on 500+ radio stations. Tune around AM any weekday between Noon and 3 (Eastern) and you’re likely to hear him at multiple places on the dial. He boasts 20 million listeners, many of whom call themselves “dittoheads.” He is their source of information and opinion.

Whether this is good for the country or the Republican Party is something I’ll leave for political pundits to comment on. But I know one thing for certain…

It’s good for radio…

and Rush Limbaugh’s numbers.