Last week, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) — the chairman of the House Republican Conference — defended the influence of right-wing talk shows over the Republican Party. Pence claimed that it’s “hogwash” to suggest that pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck “only speak for a small group of activists.” In a similar vein, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) defended the influence of Limbaugh, Beck, and other commentators because, she claimed, they represent a “critical mass.”
Reflecting the emerging stranglehold over the Republican Party that Limbaugh and Beck now exert, the new cover of The Weekly Standard identifies Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin as the faces of the GOP (see image to the right). Yesterday morning on C-Span, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich expressed concern with the cover:
Well, I just think it’s interesting that two of the three people on the cover are talk radio hosts — Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. And they’re fine people, and they have big audiences, and that’s terrific. But you have a party that has Gov. Haley Barbour, it has Gov. Mitch Daniels, it has Gov. Tim Pawlenty. [...] You know, you can have a very, very intense movement of 20 percent. You can’t govern. To govern, you got to get 50 percent plus one after the recount.
Gingrich has been taking heat from right-wing activists for endorsing the Republican candidate in New York’s upcoming 23rd congressional district race. The right-wing base — i.e. tea party activists — are rallying behind Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman, who has earned the endorsement of Sarah Palin, Dick Armey, and Michele Bachmann, among others.
Gingrich’s comments reflect an ongoing tension in the Republican Party between their tea party activist base and those who want to embrace more moderate candidates. After Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he didn’t want to belong to shrinking party full of “angry white guys,” Beck shot back that he’s “going to stick with the angry people…because they’re only angry about you.”
On PBS last Friday, conservative commentator David Brooks said “the Republican Party has a terrible problem of who its spokespeople are.” He expressed concern the influence of Beck and Limbaugh is “part of a larger problem” that the GOP has.
Also in the interview, Newt indicated he was interested in running for President in 2012.
,On Saturday morning on Fox News, Gingrich ripped Hoffman’s leading supporters (like Palin) for trying to “impose national values on a local race.” He accused Hoffman’s endorsers of hypocrisy by not respecting state/local decisions. He then admonished his conservative opponents for wrecking the Republican Party:
If some people in the Republican Party want to go around the country purging everyone they disagree with, they’re going to rapidly make this a minority party for a generation and they’re going to guarantee the re-election of President Obama and they’re going to guarantee Nancy Pelosi stays as Speaker for the rest of her life.