Limbaugh remains in eye of hurricane


The free publicity tsunami generated by Rush Limbaugh v. Democrats continues unabated, and Limbaugh isn’t doing a thing to slow it down. He’s challenged President Barack Obama to a debate, saying on the air, “I am offering President Obama to come on this program — without staffers, without a teleprompter, without note cards — to debate me on the issues.” Entercom’s WRKO-AM Boston is urging its listeners to help goad the president into accepting.

Meanwhile, some Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) are accusing the White House of using Limbaugh to distract attention from the policy debate going on in the midst of the economic crisis. And Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is accusing the Obama administration of using Limbaugh in a manner inconsistent with the spirit of bipartisanism Obama mentioned constantly during his campaign. Cornyn is using a page from the current Democratic playbook and using the Limbaugh name to generate campaign contributions.

Still other Republicans, including former George Bush aide David Frum observed that Limbaugh getting his core agitated is not compatible with the overall Republican goal of regaining support from the political center. "We can’t win elections by getting our core voters agitated,” said Frum. “But if you’re a talk radio host and you have 5 million who listen and there are 50 million people who hate you, you can make a nice living. If you’re a Republican Party, you’re marginalized.

Despite getting credit for organizing the Limbaugh fracas in some quarters, the White House only recently entered the Limbaugh fray. Its origins, according to a Politico report, were in a poll conducted by key Clinton era operative James Carville and others, which pointed to Limbaugh’s high level of unfavorables. When Limbaugh made some controversial statements, Carville and Paul Begala were ready to pounce. Then public interest groups started using Limbaugh in advertisements. Obama mentioned him in private in a meeting with Republican legislators some time ago, but it’s only been since last Limbaugh’s CPAC speech last weekend that the White House has repeatedly brought up his name in public.

Democrats in Washington, in general, are trying to force their legislative colleagues from across the aisle to either renounce Limbaugh or give full-throated approval for Limbaugh’s more controversial pronouncements, a choice most seemingly would prefer to steer clear of.

RBR/TVBR observation: The heat this story is generating shows no sign of letting up, and if nothing else it underscores the continued relevance of broadcast radio. How long can it go on with this level of intensity? Who knows – so stations carrying Limbaugh should try to cash in on all this free PR just a quickly and thoroughly as possible.