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.

# # #

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


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Monday, March 09, 2009

With 'Godfather' Limbaugh, GOP Turning Into Political Version of 'The Sopranos'

The Right-Wing Radio Talk-Show Host's Seeming Takeover as Boss of the Republican Party -- and the GOP's Apparent Fear of His 'Dittohead Mafia' -- Could Pose a Danger to its Viability in Future Elections, as Polls Find Limbaugh Is Less Popular Than Bush and the Party's Electoral Base Continues to Shrink to View Full-Size Image

Who's the real boss of the Republican Party? There's a growing belief among pundits and the general American public -- and even among some Republicans -- that Rush Limbaugh, the Tony Soprano of conservative talk radio, is the real power in the GOP, given the fact that so far, every prominent Republican who has publicly criticized Limbaugh -- including GOP National Chairman Michael Steele -- has ended up issuing a public apology to Limbaugh within 24 hours, often after Limbaugh "whacked" them on his radio show. This ongoing soap opera suggests that many Republicans are fearful of alienating Limbaugh and his Mob-like legion of "Dittohead" listeners. (Images: Rush Limbaugh courtesy; Tony Soprano courtesy

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EDT Monday, March 9, 2009)


"Who's the Boss?"

That might have been the title of the popular 1980s ABC television sitcom that starred Tony Danza, but it could just as well be applied now to the ongoing soap opera that's gripped the Republican Party.

Indeed, it's a soap opera that's rapidly becoming the political equivalent of HBO's highly successful, Emmy-winning Mob drama, "The Sopranos."

In recent weeks, Americans across the political spectrum have borne witness to the incredible display of the Republican Party acting more like the fictional New Jersey crime family -- minus the violence and gore, of course -- as member after member who dared to publicly "cross the boss" ended up apologetically bowing down to him within 24 hours after the boss got them "whacked" -- verbally, that is.

And just who is this Tony Soprano of the Republican Party? None other than America's most famous right-wing radio talk-show host, Rush Limbaugh.

With Republicans by the dozens appearing to cower to the talk-radio godfather and his right-wing "Dittohead Mafia" of angry, mostly white male listeners, the GOP's viability as a national political party could be placed in serious jeopardy in future elections.


There is good reason for Republicans to be afraid to cross swords with Limbaugh: The latest in a series of polls conducted by the Gallup Organization in February show that 60 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of Limbaugh, while only 17 percent view him unfavorably.

In sharp contrast, Democrats despise the right-wing radio talkmeister. Sixty-three percent of Democrats -- almost a two-thirds majority -- have a negative opinion of Limbaugh, while only six percent of Democrats view him favorably.

Among independents, a 45 percent plurality view Limbaugh unfavorably, while 25 percent have a positive view.

Taken together, Limbaugh enjoys only a 28 percent favorable rating overall -- a figure actually lower than former President George W. Bush's 31 percent positive rating when he left office in January. Forty-five percent overall view Limbaugh unfavorably.

A separate poll conducted last October by the Democratic research firm Greenberg-Quinlan-Rosner has Limbaugh enjoying a public-approval rating of only 21 percent among likely voters, while 58 percent have negative feelings toward the right-wing radio talkmeister.

Limbaugh’s negative rating in the Greenberg poll was higher than that of every other political figure, including the president's controversial former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright (51 percent negative) and former 1960s radical William Ayers 50 percent negative).


With voter-registration records across the country showing a dramatic increase in the number of registered Democrats and independents in 2008 and an equally dramatic decrease in the number of registered Republicans, the soldifying perception of the GOP as a party with Limbaugh and his "Dittohead Mafia" firmly in charge of it could pose a dire threat to the GOP's long-term viability in future elections.

Already widely perceived after last November's election as a party whose support base has shrunk to the conservative South and Rocky Mountain West, the Republicans can ill afford to continue be controlled by the conservative, middle-aged-and-older, overwhelmingly white male constituency that makes up the bulk of the party's core voter base -- and Limbaugh's radio audience -- when the overall U.S. population and electorate is becoming more and more racially, ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse.

Republicans lost the support of African-American voters decades ago with the advent in 1968 of Richard Nixon's infamous "Southern Strategy" of appealing to conservative Southern white voters alienated by the Democrats' embrace of the civil rights movement.

In the last decade, Republicans lost the support of Latino voters angered by the frequent use by conservative Republicans of anti-Latino language in voicing their opposition to comprehensive immigration reform.

The GOP suffered an erosion of support even from conservative Cuban-Americans in South Florida, long a reliable GOP constituency, in the 2008 election. Concerns about the souring U.S. economy overtook long-held concerns among Cuban-Americans about their communist-ruled island homeland.

"The politics driven by the embargo and Fidel Castro are . . . long gone," Obama's Florida campaign manager, Steve Schale, told The Miami Herald, citing exit polls that showed younger Cuban-Americans shifting significantly toward the Democrats.

"The U.S. relationship with Castro, at the end of the day," Schale told the Herald, "is a minor concern when you can't get a job or find health insurance for your children."

Based on these numbers, if Limbaugh were to run for president in 2012 as the GOP nominee, he would likely get buried in a landslide -- especially if President Obama, who currently enjoys a 62 percent job-approval rating in the Gallup poll, were to run for a second term with his current ratings intact.


Limbaugh has made headlines with his on-the-air pronouncements that he wants to see the Obama presidency fail. That Limbaugh wants to see a Democratic president "fail" just days after Obama took office was shocking in that he had never said that about any previous Democratic president nor so quickly after the Democrat took office.

The swiftness and vehemence of Limbaugh's anti-Obama rants, combined with his playing of a racially offensive song about the president -- "Barack, the Magic Negro" -- during the campaign, strongly suggests that Limbaugh's problem with Obama may be racially motivated more than politically motivated.

The same motivation could also have been behind Limbaugh's rude put-down of Michael Steele -- the GOP's first-ever African-American national committee chairman -- after Steele criticized Limbaugh while appearing on CNN's "D.L. Hughley Breaks the News" on February 28. "I am the leader of the Republican Party," Steele told Hughley. "Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. His whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it's incendiary. Yes, it's ugly."

Limbaugh roared back on March 2 with a blistering smackdown of Steele. "It's time, Mr. Steele, for you to go behind the scenes and start doing the work that you were elected to do, instead of trying to be some talking-head media star," Limbaugh thundered. "If it's your position as the head of the Republican National Committee that you want a left-wing Democrat president and a left-wing Democrat Congress to succeed in advancing their agenda . . . I think you have some explaining to do. Why are you running the Republican Party?"

The vitriol behind Limbaugh's attack on the new RNC chairman is without precedent. One wonders if Limbaugh would have been so heavy-handed in his smackdown of Steele -- effectively putting Steele "in his place" -- if the GOP party chairman was white, given Limbaugh's long history of controversial, racially-charged remarks.

And Steele's response to Limbaugh's verbal whacking of him? Appearing Wednesday night on Sean Hannity's Fox News Channel show, Steele said he had a private conversation with Limbaugh and denied that his comments on CNN were intended as an attack on talk radio's undisputed godfather.

"It's all good. . .We're past this," Steele told Hannity. "It was clearly a misunderstanding. My intent was never to go after my friend. I like Rush. He's an important conservative voice for our party and for 20-plus years, he's been holding that line."

Steele insisted that the point he was trying to make, "if you listen to the exchange [between Steele and Hughley], there was no attack on Rush," he told Hannity. "The point I wanted to make was there there are people out there who actually want to demonize and use him [Limbaugh] as a bogeyman, but also saying that what he's saying is ugly and divisive."


Nonetheless, Steele became the latest of a number of prominent Republicans who have criticized Limbaugh in public, only to apologize to him within 24 hours -- which had left a number of political observers scratching their heads.

Richard Wolfe, a political analyst for MSNBC, compared the Limbaugh soap opera in the GOP to the Bush doctrine behind the war on terror. "You're either with Limbaugh or you're with the terrorists, I guess," Wolfe told MSNBC's Kieth Olbermann last Monday.

"And it's clear who's doing the terrorizing here," Wolfe added, referring to Limbaugh. "Here you have a party [the GOP] that ran no less than four elections on being tougher and stronger than anyone else, and they can't say 'boo' to a radio talk-show guy? It's surprising that [Republican] elected officials are in this quandary and they put themselves in it."

Wolfe expressed astonishment that the Republicans "don't have the freedom to say what they really feel, which is that he's [Limbaugh] hijacking their party and their message.

"This is a sorry state of affairs, even for the Republicans," he concluded.


Even some Republicans have become alarmed at Limbaugh's perceived takeover as the leading voice of the GOP.

"He motivates a core Republican, who is a very important part of the Republican coalition, and we need those guys to be interested and active," Jan van Lohuizen, a GOP strategist in Washington, told the Los Angeles Times. "But it's not enough. The Republican Party has shrunk and it needs to be expanding."

But one prominent Republican isn't impressed with Limbaugh. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger -- who's been at odds with the GOP's right wing for years -- bluntly declared two years ago, "I'm not his [Limbaugh's] servant," in an interview on NBC's "Today" show. "I'm the people's servant of California."

Schwarzewnegger was firing back at Limbaugh for branding him a "closet liberal."

"Limbaugh is irrelevant," the "Governator" said.


That was two years ago. It can't be said that Limbaugh is "irrelevant" to the Republicans now -- especially after he openly challenged President Obama to a debate on his radio show.

"If you can win at this, then come here and beat me at my own game, and get rid of me once and for all, and show all the people of America that I am wrong," Limbaugh said Wesdnesday. "If you take me out, if you can wipe me out in a debate and prove to the rest of America that what I say is senseless and wrong, do you realize you will own the United States of America?"

In a display of reverse psychology, Limbaugh accused the White House of orchestrating an attack on him, telling his listeners that the Obama team is demonizing the radio host since Bush left office.

Yet it was Limbaugh who started this fracas in the first place by declaring that he hoped that the president's policies would fail.

It was Limbaugh who insisted that Obama was not an African-
American, but an Arab who had ties to extremist Muslim terrorists.

And it was Limbaugh who poured even more racially-charged gasoline when he attempted to belittle Obama by playing "Barack, the Magic Negro" on his show.

So who's demonizing whom?

# # #

Volume IV, Number 19
Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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