“I don’t know why he would do that. Mr. Limbaugh is the voice of a significant portion of the Conservative movement in America. He [Limbaugh] has a very wide viewing audience. He [Limbaugh] is entitled to his views. People listen very carefully to him. I don’t know why the President would take him on. He’s [Limbaugh] part of the political landscape and he plays a role,” McCain said. I think McCain is way off base here.
Republicans might shake in their boots at Rush’s bellowing, but Limbaugh has very little influence politically. 128.5 million votes were cast in the last election, and Limbaugh has around 20 million listeners, virtually all like minded Republicans. His audience is made up of the hardcore Obama hater. These are people who voted for McCain, and would not support Obama under any circumstances. If Obama was a Republican, it would be a mistake to mention Limbaugh by name, but the president actually has a lot to gain by using Rush as an example of old politics.
Obama gained points with Independents and Democrats who are turned off by Limbaugh’s rhetoric. Rush is the polar opposite of Obama. He sees politics as a black or white, zero sum game. Rush Limbaugh is the biggest symbol of the old politics and partisan gridlock out there right now. His popularity is built on conflict. If both parties would start getting along, he would have nothing to talk about. It was a mistake for Obama to mention Rush in the sense that he gave him material for his show.
President Obama has nothing to fear from Rush Limbaugh. What is Rush going to do? Is he going to mobilize his already anti-Obama Republican listenership to vote against him? Rush’s power exists in his own mind. The president should be above invoking specific host names, and I dispute McCain’s description of Obama taking on Limbaugh. He did no such thing. He only mentioned him by name. It is Limbaugh who has been trying to fuel a feud. The fact that Republicans are afraid of a talk show host says more about the state of their party, than it does about the power of Limbaugh.