The Limbaugh mandate


Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) begged forgiveness for remarks critical of Rush Limbaugh recently, but Barack Obama has made no such effort to take back criticism of Republicans should they choose to follow Limbaugh. Which is taking the safer path?

Limbaugh has said that Obama fears him more than he does congressional Republican leaders Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and John Boehner (R-OH). However, according to a recent Gallup poll, Limbaugh’s overall approval rating is only 28%, with 45.4% in the disapproval column and 26.7% who don’t know him or have no opinion.
Among Republicans, Limbaugh’s approve/disapprove ratio is 60%/23%, with 17% unsure; among Democrats, it’s 6%/63%, with 31% unsure; among the key independent crowd, Limbaugh pulls a weak 23%/45% with 30% unsure.

Breaking the unsure group down a bit further, we find that 11% don’t even know who he is, including 4% of Republicans, 16% of Democrats and 12% of independents. AThis may in fact be Limbaugh’s greatest positive —  an 11% unfamiliarity score is a gloriously low number for any celebrity in any field.

RBR/TVBR observation: Neither politics nor radio are zero sum contests. Politics can be seen as 50+1 – you just need to get over half the vote, making it cost-effective to ignore those who will vote against you no matter and focus on those in the middle while being careful to keeping your base. In radio, however, particularly in a large market, if you can regularly claim 4% of the audience, you’re a hit. You can focus on your base to the exclusion of all others.

Limbaugh’s ability to throw bricks at the Obama administration from the sidelines and work in the Republicans’ favor – he can say things to his 4% of the crowd that politician aiming at 50+1 simply cannot say, allowing a given sentiment to be aired without the politician personally “owning” it. But it can backfire, too, if Democrats can successfully tie politicians to Limbaugh and play to Limbaugh’s negatives within the general population.

One thing is for sure – if Limbaugh is thinking about running for office (and there’s no reason to think that he is), he should definitely keep his day job.