Springtime for Limbaugh
Jonathan Alter in Newsweek:
" . . . Rush's audience remains huge, with a weekly audience of more than 20 million, and will stay large for as long as he broadcasts. If his listeners can forgive him sending his poor housekeeper into a parking lot to score drugs for him, they will forgive anything. But these folks no long represent the American mainstream. In fact, while 28 percent of Americans still identify themselves as Republicans, 29 percent call themselves independents. Plenty of the indies might still be listening to Rush, but they don't take their marching orders from him anymore. To them, he's just another entertainer.
When Obama first mentioned Limbaugh in a meeting with Republicans during his second week in office, he was chastised for elevating him in a way that didn't befit a president. But it quickly became clear that any contest between Barack and Rush was not really a contest at all—and that this is a fight the president is happy to have. The president's popularity is in the 60s, and the entertainer's, according to internal Democratic polling, is in the 20s. So Rahm Emanuel and Robert Gibbs are now piling on, describing Limbaugh as the "intellectual force" and "de facto chairman" of the party.
It works. And it will keep on working until enough Republicans grow a spine. When they show enough guts to ignore the thousands of calls and e-mails from dittoheads, maybe they'll get their party—and their self-respect—back."