Not missing any opportunity to make Rush Limbaugh the figurehead of the GOP, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called the brash talk show host the "voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party" on Sunday.
Appearing on CBS's Face The Nation, Emanuel brought up Limbaugh without being prompted. Applauding the conservative radio personality for being upfront in his desire to see the president fail, Emanuel went to great lengths to make the case that Limbaugh, more than any other contemporary figure, is the leader of the GOP.
SCHIEFFER: We talked about Newt Gingrich a lot this morning and now you bring up Rush Limbaugh. Who do you think now speaks for the Republican Party?
EMANUEL: You just named him: it is Rush Limbaugh. He has laid out his vision, in my view. And he said it clearly. I compliment him for that. He's been very up front and I compliment him for that. He's not hiding. He's asked for President Obama and called for President Obama to fail. That's his view. And that's what he has enunciated. And whenever a Republican criticizes him, they have to run back and apologize to him and say they were misunderstood. He is the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party. He has been up front about what he views and hasn't stepped back from that, which is he hopes for failure. He said it and I compliment him for his honesty. But that's their philosophy that is enunciated by Rush Limbaugh and I think that's the wrong philosophy for America...
SCHIEFFER: Do you think that he's that important that other Republicans are paying that much attention to him?
EMANUEL: Well, he was given the keynote basically at the [CPAC conference] to speak. When a Republican did attack him he clearly had a turn-around and comeback and basically said that he apologized and was wrong. I think do think he's an intellectual force, which is why the Republicans pay such attention to him.
While Emanuel seemed eager to paint Limbaugh as the head of the GOP, some Republicans were growing anxious. Appearing on Meet the Press, veteran strategist Mike Murphy -- no stranger to trying to drag his party away from certain ideologically-fervent posts -- warned that the ascendancy of the talk shot host to the top ranks of the GOP could result in a "permanent minority status."
The country is changing. Ronald Reagan won in 1980 with 51% of the vote. We all worship Ronald Reagan. But if that election had been held with the current demographics in America today, Ronald Reagan would have gotten 47 percent of the vote. The math is changing. Anglo vote is 74 percent now not 89. And if we don't modernize conservatism, we are going to have a party of 25 percent of the vote going to Limbaugh rallies, joining every applause line, ripping the furniture up, we're going to be in permanent minority status.
Meanwhile, appearing on ABC's This Week, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor pushed back against Limbaugh about as hard as any elected GOP official to this point. Asked if House Republicans, like Limbaugh, were hoping for the president to fail, the Virginia Republican replied:
"Absolutely not... And I don't -- I don't think anyone wants anything to fail right now. We have such challenges. What we need to do is we need to put forth solutions to the problems that real families are facing today."
Emanuel, Cantor and Murphy's remarks came a day after Limbaugh, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, reiterated his hope that Obama fail as a president - on policy not personal grounds. His address, which went over 80-minutes in length, was received enthusiastically by the crowd, which peppered him with standing applause.
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