Before today, radio host Rush Limbaugh has -- in his own words -- "studiously avoided" attacking presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. That silence ended today, after an anonymous Huckabee "ally" was quoted trashing Rush as a DC insider who is secretly rooting for a President Hillary Clinton.
"The Huckabee campaign is trying to dumb down conservatism in order to get it to conform with his record," Limbaugh said today, during an extended session of Huckabee-bashing.
The Huckabee camp, perhaps inadvertantly, set off the fire yesterday when Marc Ambinder published this quote from someone aligned with the campaign:
Rush doesn't think for himself. That's not necessarily a slap because he's not paid to be a thinker--he's an entertainer. I can't remember the last time that he has veered from the talking points from the DC/Manhattan chattering class. If they were praising Huckabee, he would be too.
Ouch. If that weren't enough to peeve the king of AM radio, the quote ends:
Bill Clinton made Rush a megastar. Having another Clinton back in power would make him the Leading Voice of the Opposition once again.
The who-said-what debate has gone back a forth a bit, with people questioning the identity of this anonymous and audacious figure. The comments have also opened the door to a barrage of criticism from Rush. National Review live-blogged most of the "discussion" of Huckabee, which you can find here and here. These quotables from Rush will give you a flavor:
"Who is this campaign to decide who is and who is not conservative? I hadn't heard of Huckabee in any serious manner before this campaign began. Believe me, I know who the conservatives are and aren't."
"Stop with this Clintonian spin."
"McCain's starting to look better to than this guy, and that's saying something."
Huckabee's campaign is scrambling to catch up with Limbaugh. According to campaign manager Chip Saltsman:
"We have nothing but respect for Rush Limbaugh and know that he's a big part of the conservative movement in this country. That's one person's opinion in DC, but it doesn't represent the view of the Huckabee campaign. I can only hope we'll get a chance to talk to Rush and make sure that he knows that's not coming from us."
With all the criticism he has been facing from other conservatives, can Mike Huckabee survive the Limbaugh onslaught? Perhaps, if only because starting Monday, Rush is in reruns until after Iowa.