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WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Mike Rogers wants to be a "productive conservative" on the radio dial who fosters "smart debate" during the daily show he will host after leaving Congress in January.

The ex-FBI agent and outgoing House Intelligence Committee chairman might not be done with politics after more than a decade in Congress, so there's unquestioned value for him from the three hours each day he will spend fielding questions and reasoning with a mass audience.

"I'm not saying I am," Rogers, R-Mich., told The Associated Press when asked if he was preparing to re-enter politics in the years ahead. "But I do foresee myself back in government service in some capacity in the future."

For now, Cumulus Radio Group is betting that listeners and advertisers will find Rogers' hearty voice, contempt for right-wing ideologues and expertise in national security inviting.

Rogers' hope is to "move the needle" toward the political center on radio, which is crowded with conservative antagonists, and at a time when the division between the GOP's mainstream and right wings is deep.

"It may be that, even as this AM radio's audience ages and literally dies off, there's always going to be a diversity of voices available on the airwaves," said Hollande Cooke, a media and radio personality consultant.

Rogers, 50, will step down in January, when the next Congress takes over, and shift from Capitol Hill, his workplace for 14 years, to a studio elsewhere in Washington.


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He has made his mark on the House Intelligence Committee, a rare collaborative group in a strongly partisan Congress.

"I think of this notion — a productive conservative host, with smart controversy, smart debate, where I turn off the radio and go, 'You know what, that was really interesting, I can't wait to turn it on tomorrow.'"

He said that during his time in the House, Republicans more concerned with maintaining a strictly conservative profile than with incremental changes have effectively ceded control to Democrats by holding out for ideological purity.

Chiefly, majority Republicans demanded changes in President Barack Obama's health law last year as the price for essential funding of the government that Obama and Democrats refused to accept, forcing a 16-day partial shutdown.

"If you show up here with the idea that you want GOP leadership to fail, that means that conservative philosophy will be ineffective and that will cost us down the road," Rogers said in the interview in his Capitol Hill office.

Conservative radio has thrived on outrage during the past 20 years. Listenership surged in the 1990s with Rush Limbaugh's daily critiques of the Clinton administration.

New voices, such as nationally syndicated hosts Sean Hannity and Michael Savage have gained audience since Obama's election in 2008, while smaller markets around the country have grown their own.

"There are thousands of hosts spewing a right-wing agenda," said media consultant Walter Sabo. "If Rogers is compelling and makes his arguments in a way that's entertaining of course, he'll be successful."

The issue is whether people will listen to something that challenges their opinions, said Gov. Rick Snyder, R-Mich.

"I think the concept of having a balanced approach or more factual approach is a good thing," Snyder told the AP. "There is potentially a challenge in that too many people today solely kind of listen to an echo of what they would like to hear."

In that way, Cumulus is taking a risk that Rogers can capture a shifting listenership.

Two years ago, Limbaugh called a then-Georgetown University student a "slut" after she testified to Congress advocating contraception. Limbaugh's comments led to an advertising boycott and since then, his ratings have dipped in key markets.

"I have never run into an owner that has an agenda beyond a return to their investors," Sabo said.

Cumulus, with stations in some of the largest markets, is looking ahead, Cooke said. The company ended its contract with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a socially conservative commentator, after just 20 months because the show failed to lift ratings.

 

"Ultimately, demographics are going marginalize this sore-head brand of talk radio," Cooke said. "We have 95 million millenials who are about to take over the American economy."

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