“The school nurse doesn’t run the school,” Mr. Schlapp said. “The principal runs the school.”
Polling shows that the vast majority of Americans support a national stay-at-home order, but Mr. Limbaugh’s audience — in other words, the president’s base — shares his agitation about jump-starting the economy. His recent shows illustrate the extent to which many of Mr. Trump’s supporters remain suspicious of the public health experts.
“I agree the right person is in office to bring this country out of this,” said a Las Vegas police officer named Marcus who called into Mr. Limbaugh’s show on Monday. “But, you know, when you look at numbers, Rush — the numbers don’t add up as far as, like, you know, the amount of people that die of a normal flu every year and those sort of things. I mean, it’s terrifying how one thing can make us give up our rights so quickly.”
On Friday, a caller from Prescott, Ariz., wondered if experts were urging the shutdown of the economy as a way to model the potential effects of legislation intended to combat climate change. “Isn’t this kind of like a dry run of the Green New Deal?” he asked.
In the midst of everything, Mr. Limbaugh’s listeners unequivocally support the president. On Friday, a New York construction worker named Andy criticized the transformation of Manhattan into a “ghost town,” and said, “There is no better man to be in the White House right now than Donald Trump.”
It is the kind of affirmation that helps illuminate radio’s increasing appeal to Mr. Trump. Television indeed plays an outsize role in the president’s assessment of himself and his administration. But with no campaign rallies to look forward to, people close to the president say he feels stifled in his inability to communicate directly with his supporters, complaining that the news media tries to distort his message at his daily briefings.
The president may have dropped plans for his own talk radio show. But for Mr. Trump, what Mr. Limbaugh offers is perhaps second best: a taste of the validation he craves, as well as a blueprint for how to make his supporters even happier.
“Rush is perfectly confident and competent to play the outsider to the system,” said Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor. “In that way, he and the president learn from each other.”