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Monday, January 4, mid-afternoon: Dana Loesch zooms around the front rooms of her red-brick two-story, sidestepping her sons' Lego people as she stuffs a bag with all manner of digital gadgetry and awaits her husband so she can head to work. Every bit the southern-style hostess, Loesch is self-conscious about the Christmas decorations still hanging. "Don't look!" she admonishes, then peels out the back door.
Loesch is nervous. Executive producer Beowulf Rochlen sent word late last night that his boss, nationally syndicated conservative radio host Michael Savage, enjoyed her fill-in on The Savage Nation five days prior: Would she like to do it again in less than 24 hours?
"Beowulf said that he asked for me, which I thought was kind of cool, just because of the chick factor," Loesch confides on the drive to the station. "But also because I've only been doing this two years, and I realize it's a big deal, because I know in radio years that's not a lot. The last time I wasn't so much scared about the big difference in audience as far as numbers and national scope, but they said, 'He'll be listening, and he's been known to stop a broadcast before if he wants to.'"
The Savage Nation has been on the national airwaves for a decade. Loesch is the first woman ever to fill in.
"I've got to tell you, I was absolutely stunned," says Jeff Allen, program manager of KFTK (97.1 FM), the Fox-affiliated station that airs The Dana Show six nights a week. "I was kind of like: Really? They wanted Dana? Hmm. They have the right person, right? Because don't get me wrong, I think she's very talented and did a great job and was more than ready. But it's very rare that it happens this quickly."
At age 31, Loesch is a homeschooling mom blogger with a national following, a co-founder of the St. Louis Tea Party and a fast-rising star in the conservative commentators' universe. A self-described smart aleck with a saucy delivery in print and on air, she subscribes to the last-word-wins-the-argument theory and commences many a sentence with the disclaimer, "Now I know this is going to make a lot of people mad, but..."
As her close friend Marjorie Dellas puts it: "She refuses to be painted as anything other than opinionated, and she wants her opinion known. She definitely marks her territory."
A quintessential Type A personality, Loesch seizes on an idea and refuses to let it go, be it serious (launching a networking group for local social-media types) or silly (creating a fake girl band complete with MySpace page with her five best friends). Her sense of humor runs the gamut from brute to goofball. "I would challenge anyone to meet her in person — not confront her, but meet her; those are two different things — and not like her," says Allen.
Loesch lives in south St. Louis, shops at Costco and Trader Joe's, loves Stag and French-press coffee, sets off her tattoos with diamond earrings and likes to fiddle with hydrangeas and handguns. She can cite Scripture without having to open the Old Testament and digs the irreverence of Penn & Teller.
She doesn't fit nicely in a box, you might say, and if you did, you'd also say that's exactly the political image she's cultivating. An erstwhile Democrat who votes Republican but prefers "conservatarian," she has packaged herself as "the conservative alternative to old dudes."
It's a composite that has the GOP salivating. "I think she's extremely smart, a natural leader who's extremely tech-savvy," says Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party. "She's reaching a younger demographic than an O'Reilly or a Hannity or a Rush Limbaugh. That makes her extremely unique in being able to get a message into a demographic that historically the GOP and conservative movement maybe have not been as good at as we should have."
Andrew Breitbart, who helped Arianna Huffington create The Huffington Post website and has since assembled his own media mini-empire via breitbart.com, biggovernment.com, bigjournalism.com and more, counts Loesch among his contributors.
"Everybody was telling me about this amazing person who just emerged out of nowhere, who had this amazing spirit and had the ability to write — who was almost the embodiment of everything that I want to happen with journalism," says Breitbart, who recently made Tina Brown's Daily Beast list of the 25 most important right-wing journalists. "I want it to spread like wildfire so that you don't have to depend on middlemen anymore who have ideological goals when they interview you. She has the ability to write, she has the ability to report and has every stellar quality a communicator could possibly want for television, radio and Internet-based forms of media. I can't even begin to tell you how many fans she has in the higher media who say she needs to have her own TV show. She's a stay-at-home mom who homeschools her kids; she's beautiful; she's smart; she's fearless. She's a pure rising star."
To Loesch the transformation from mom blogger to political provocateur has been equal parts thrilling and bewildering. Coming out of the closet politically amid St. Louis' liberal social-media world has cost her both audience share and friendships. "I love what I'm doing, but it's all been a bit bizarre," she sums up.