Thursday, March 12, 2009

Poll Finds Obama Laying the Smackdown to Limbaugh -- Big Time

Midway Through His First 100 Days in Office, the President's Approval Rating, While Down Slightly, Remains High -- and Buries Limbaugh's, 65 Percent to 33 Percent, McClatchy-Ipsos Poll Finds; Conservative Columnist Blasts Right-Wing Radio Talkmeister as 'Kryptonite' to the GOP

   President Barack Obama speaks as he meets with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner,  not shown, Wednesday, March 11, 2009, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

President Obama has been in office for only 50 days, but he's had to deal with more issues than most of his predecessors have faced in their entire tenure. Yet his cool and calm way in dealing with the nation's economic crisis is proving very popular with the public, according to a newly-released poll by the McClatchy Newspapers. Meanwhile, his arch-nemesis, Rush Limbaugh, has failed to gain traction with his on-air attacks against the president, generating instead strongly negative opinions about the right-wing talk-radio host and de facto leader of the Republican opposition. (Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP)

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EDT Thursday, March 12, 2009)


The recession is getting worse and it's starting to take a toll on President Obama's job-approval ratings. But his standing with the American public remains high -- and it buries his arch-nemesis, Rush Limbaugh, according to a new poll.

Meanwhile, an influential conservative columnist and speechwriter to former President George W. Bush this week branded the godfather of right-wing talk radio "kryptonite" to the Republican Party, "weakening the GOP" as much as the green radioactive fragments of Superman's long-lost native planet weaken the Man of Steel.

But despite the mounting criticism and declining standing among the public, Limbaugh remains unbowed; indeed, in yet another display of reverse psychology, Limbaugh on Wednesday trumpeted his dismal poll ratings as evidence that, "I am one of the most popular individuals in America today."


The survey, conducted by the Ipsos market research firm for the McClatchy Newspapers, found that 65 percent of Americans approve of the way Obama is doing his job roughly midway through the first 100 days of his presidency. That was down slightly from 69 percent a month ago.

Twenty-nine percent disapprove of Obama's performance, a three percent increase from 26 percent a month ago. Nonetheless, the president's numbers remain high, roughly twice as high as his predecessor, George W. Bush, in his final year in office -- and nearly twice as high as those for Limbaugh, the right-wing radio talk-show host and alleged de facto leader of the Republican opposition.

The poll found only 33 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of Limbaugh -- the vast majority of them conservative Republicans -- while 46 percent hold an unfavorable view of the talk-show host.

One-third of all Americans hold a "very unfavorable" view of Limbaugh, with two-thirds of Democrats deeply hostile toward him, the poll found.

The numbers underscore the Democrats taking particular delight in firing potshots at Limbaugh in the ongoing soap opera in the Republican Party over whether the right-wing radio pundit is the real leader of the GOP, especially after party chairman Michael Steele criticized him -- and later apologized to him.

Limbaugh, whose radio show is carried on more than 600 stations across the country, is a polarizing figure who's enormously popular with his conservative, mostly white-male Republican fans, but deeply unpopular with almost everyone else, especially women.


In a scathing indictment of Limbaugh published this week as the cover story in Newsweek magazine, conservative columnist David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter, wrote that Limbaugh's influence on the Republican Party has become a liability, as his brand of conservatism remains stuck in the Reagan Era 1980s, ignoring the fact that the nation -- and the electorate -- has changed in more than 28 years since Ronald Reagan was elected president.

"Through 2008 Rush was offended by the tendency among conservative writers to suggest that the ideas and policies developed in the 1970s needed to change and adapt to the very different world of the 21st century," Frum wrote.

Quoting from Limbaugh's February 28 speech at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Frum noted that Limbaugh's reaction to those suggestions was, "'The Declaration of Independence does not need to be redefined, and neither does conservatism. Conservatism is what it is, and it is forever. It's not something you can bend and shape and flake and form . . .'"

Frum went on to quote Limbaugh as saying, "'I cringed—it might have been 2007, late 2007 or sometime during 2008, but a couple of prominent, conservative, Beltway, establishment media types began to write on the concept that the era of Reagan is over . . .And I'm listening to this and I am just apoplectic: The era of Reagan is over? … We have got to stamp this [idea]out …'"


All but calling Limbaugh a bully toward his fellow Republicans, Frum wrote that "From a political point of view, Limbaugh is kryptonite, weakening the GOP nationally. No Republican official will say that; Limbaugh demands absolute deference from the conservative world, and he generally gets it. When offended, he can extract apologies from Republican members of Congress, even the chairman of the Republican National Committee. And Rush is very easily offended."

Frum's scathing critique of Limbaugh underscores a growing public image of the right-wing radio host as the de facto boss of the Republican Party -- or, as pointed out in Monday's edition of The 'Skeeter Bites Report, a political version of television Mob boss Tony Soprano whose grip on the GOP rivals Soprano's rule over the fictional New Jersey crime family.

And that poses a long-term threat to the electoral viability of the GOP. Opinion polls show Limbaugh is a deeply unpopular figure among young people, women, nonwhites and independents -- voters that Republicans have no choice but to reach out to in order to win future elections.

Forty-one percent of independents have an unfavorable opinion of him, according to a newly-released Newsweek poll. Limbaugh is especially disliked among women: his radio audience is 72 percent male, according to a separate survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.


On his Wednesday broadcast, Limbaugh tried to turn his dismal numbers in the McClatchy-Ipsos Poll to his advantage. "My approval number is 33 percent," he thundered. "I am one of the most popular individuals in America today. I have a higher approval rating than lawyers, journalists, doctors -- well, not doctors -- actors, Hollywood, and Congress. My approval number of 33 percent is higher than Obama's will be at the end of his term. My approval rating of 33 percent in the McClatchy Poll is higher than Biden's IQ!"

Limbaugh then dismissed yet another poll cited earlier in the day by Democratic strategists James Carville and Stan Greenberg. "So here come Carville and Greenberg with their poll out today, and this is the analysis 'graph, or sentence. 'National survey shows talk show host unpopular with everybody...' [laughing] I'm 'unpopular' with everybody -- except conservative Republicans who defend him and share his values!"


The White House jumped on Limbaugh after he said that he wanted the president to fail in achieving his agenda. The White House was trying to force other Republicans either to stand with the controversial Limbaugh at the risk of alienating other Americans or to rebuke him, angering him and his legion of "Dittohead" listeners.

The most prominent victim was Steele, the Republican National Committee's first-ever African-American chairman, who publicly criticized Limbaugh as an entertainer who often made "incendiary" and "ugly" comments on his radio show -- only to apologize to Limbaugh within three hours after the talk-show host blasted Steele on the air.

As partisan lines harden over Obama's agenda and presidency, Democrats and Republicans tend to see the economy and him through those familiar partisan lenses, and low support among Republicans pulls down the president's overall numbers.

Obama's approval rating in the McClatchy/Ipsos poll, for example, is 89 percent among Democrats and 58 percent among independents, but only 25 percent among Republicans. The GOP's problem, however, is that Republicans make up only a fifth of the total nationwide electorate, according to state voter-registration records across the country -- and their numbers are shrinking.


An NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll released March 5 shows that Obama enjoys widespread backing from Americans worried about the economy -- but Republicans have moved away from him, exposing a hardening of the partisan divide that the president has sought to bridge since taking office in January.

But the poll also had a warning to Republicans: Don't start attacking the president on the economy now, for it will only result in the GOP being branded "the party of obstructionists." The poll found that few Americans blame Obama for the bad economy, with the vast majority of Americans (75 percent) saying he inherited the situation from Bush. Just over 50 percent of Americans say they will give the president at least two years before assigning him blame.

In the last severe global recession of 1980-82, which Reagan inherited from Jimmy Carter, the unemployment rate peaked at 10.8 percent before the economy began to recover in late August 1982 -- 19 months into Reagan's first term. Obama, backed by most economists, has warned Americans that a recovery may not begin to really set in until the spring of 2010 at the earliest.

The McClatchy/Ipsos survey found 57 percent saying the worst is yet to come on the economy, up from 54 percent a month ago. Just three percent said they thought the economy had "turned the corner" toward better times, down from seven percent.

Those with more to lose are more pessimistic: Among those who make more than $50,000 a year, 66 percent think that things will continue to get worse. Among those who earn less than that, 50 percent think that things will get worse.

There was, however, a marginal increase in the number of people who think that the country is headed in the right direction, from 42 percent to 44 percent -- although partisan differences also could be influencing that, as 62 percent of Democrats think that the country is headed in the right direction now, while only 20 percent of Republicans think so.

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Volume IV, Number 20
Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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