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RUSH: The Drive-Bys continue to discuss the irrelevancy of talk radio and its leading practitioner: me. Let’s go to PMSNBC yesterday afternoon, anchor Monica Novotny spoke with the political director at NBC, Chuck Todd, who used to be with The Hotline, and she said to him, ‘Chuck, one thing we’ll know we’ll see, one less candidate, Fred Thompson’s dropped out, but who could benefit from that? Who might get those voters who might have otherwise voted for Fred Thompson.

TODD: That was sort of the cranky conservative —

NOVOTNY: (cackle)

TODD: — but sort of the Rush Limbaugh conservative radio listener was the Fred Thompson supporter, and that’s now what’s up for grabs, is that talk radio listener constituency, and that’s actually not very friendly to John McCain, and that’s something that he may have problems with down the road.

RUSH: My head is spinning. On Sunday and Monday we were ‘irrelevant.’ We were being told by people on our side to shut up, and now the liberal Chuck Todd at the liberal PMSNBC (otherwise known as DNCTV), is saying that the talk radio listener constituency is up for grabs, and that is huge. There are so many pieces being written about talk radio once again, and I sit here, I read, these things, and I marvel. I really do, folks. I marvel at how misunderstood this medium is. People who are in broadcasting, who are also in the information business, I marvel at how they do not understand it — and the primary element of their misunderstanding is you. Their whole basis of being wrong in their conception of talk radio is based on the fact that you are idiots and that you are not independent thinkers, and everything — everything — flows from that, and I understand why. They’re jealous, all these critics are jealous of the influence and the loyalty and all of that, but still, it boggles the mind to see how wrong they consistently are in analyzing what, A, this show is all about and talk radio period. Yesterday on CNN, The Situation Room, Wolf Blitzer spoke with resident curmudgeon Jack Cafferty, and Blitzer says, ‘I want you to listen to Rush Limbaugh on his radio show Tuesday, Jack. Listen to this.’

RUSH ARCHIVE: What we need, ladies and gentlemen, are more people talking about McCain’s record, not fewer. They’re telling us to shut up. They’re telling us, ‘Come on, Limbaugh. You’re destroying the party. You’re breaking it apart.’

BLITZER: Jack, what do you think about this sort of rebellion within the conservative movement against McCain, who’s doing well right now in his race for the nomination?

CAFFERTY: The night he won the New Hampshire primary we talked at some length on CNN during the election coverage about the fact that the issue of immigration would dog him all the way down the campaign trail. This was not immigration reform; this was amnesty. And the reason that it never got anywhere in Washington was the people of this country didn’t believe that the politicians would close the border, and McCain was right at the front of trying to shove that thing through, and people haven’t forgotten that, and they won’t forget it — and immigration is a big, big issue from a lot of people in this country. So he’s got a problem there.

RUSH: Wow! Somebody in the Drive-Bys understands part of what’s going on here; that immigration is a big issue, and that Senator McCain has problems with it in his own party. Fred Barnes is still suggesting that Senator McCain call me and come by my estate here in south Florida, while he is here campaigning for the Republican primary election here on Tuesday. This was on Fox News Channel last night with Brit Hume, the Special Report show. They had Fred Barnes on there and the roundtable, and Brit Hume says, ‘Look, the possibility that the conservatives might coalesce behind Romney has been mentioned but they haven’t done that so far. What is your thought there, Fred?’

BARNES: Now, in Florida, John McCain is campaigning as a conservative. If I were campaigning as a conservative, I wouldn’t worry about what Tom DeLay says. But I would worry about what Rush Limbaugh says, because Rush Limbaugh matters. He has a huge audience. It’s mainly conservatives and Republicans, people who are going to vote in primaries like Florida. That’s why my advice would — would be (laughs), if I were John McCain, and say I’m a conservative, and Rush Limbaugh lives in Florida, I’d want to go see him and — and — and express my conservatism to him.

HUME: Yeah, he’s not going to do that, I don’t think.

RUSH: That was Brit Hume there. ‘He’s not going to do that, I don’t think.’ So here we are at Thursday. I don’t mean to be beating a dead horse, but this is just so you all can put this in your hat and remember it. On Sunday and Monday, you were irrelevant. I was irrelevant. We’re being told to shut up; go away. We’re breaking up the party. We’re causing great damage and so forth. Since then, we are riding high as the most crucial element now in the Republican presidential primary: the talk radio audience constituency. Mort Kondracke, after Hume said, well, McCain’s not going to go by Limbaugh’s house, ‘I don’t think,’ Mort Kondracke said this:

KONDRACKE: If Hillary’s the nominee, that will help, you know, the party. If you’re Rush Limbaugh, would you rather have John McCain or — or Hillary Clinton?

RUSH: (sigh) Mort is clearly here not up to speed. That has been addressed on this program, and it’s been reacted to countless times in other Drive-By journals and broadcasts and other things. On CNN this morning, John Roberts, the anchor, talking to McCain, said, ‘Rush Limbaugh said the other day, ‘If either McCain other Huckabee gets the nomination it will destroy the Republican Party.’ Senator McCain, can you win those people over? I mean do you need to, and can you be the unifying candidate, as long as you’ve got people like Rush Limbaugh with this huge megaphone out there dissing you?’

MCCAIN: The reason why we got the majority of — more Republican votes than anybody else in New Hampshire and South Carolina from all parts of the spectrum, including upstate South Carolina — is because the number-one issue with most conservatives is — is the threat of radical Islamic extremism. There’s others who care very much about the state of our planet and climate change. There’s others who care very much about the existence of the state of Israel and — but the majority of strong conservatives are very concerned by this struggle we’re in against radical Islamic extremism and many of them believe, by far, I’m the best qualified. So I’m confident I can secure the base of the party and win the nomination and win the election.

RUSH: Well, now, who’s he talking about here? Because I’ve got a poll on Florida from Real Clear Politics, and the only group of people he’s really creaming Romney with in this poll are people over 65, particularly women. But, of course, the threat of radical Islamic extremism, that should be a given for all these candidates. Nobody holds a special attachment to that. But when he says, ‘There’s others who care very much about the state of the planet and climate change and about the existence of the state of Israel,’ that is a direct appeal to which group, Mr. Snerdley? Huckabee’s crew! That’s a direct appeal to evangelicals.

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