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RUSH: All right, now we focus again on the ‘I am irrelevant’ segment of the program. This is with audio sound bites. First, from West Palm Beach, right across the bridge yesterday. Senator McCain, after a town hall meeting, spoke with reporters. He was asked about me. This is what he said.

MCCAIN: I respect Rush Limbaugh. He is a voice that is respected by a lot of people who are in our party. I’ve been trying to convince everybody that I am the most qualified.

RUSH: And then, in an interview on FOX 35 in Orlando, Cale Ramaker, ‘Rush Limbaugh, Senator McCain, why does he not like you?’

MCCAIN: I don’t know. I’ve never met Mr. Limbaugh. I just have to run a positive campaign, my vision for the future of the country.

RUSH: And then last night on CNN, Senator McCain asked yet again about me.

MCCAIN: I know, oh yeah, he’s a very influential person.

RUSH: All right. So folks, let’s be honest. This is a far cry from a few years ago. Might this have been the 2004 race, or the ’06 race? I’m not really sure when it was, but it might have been during a piece of legislation. It seems like it was just yesterday, but it’s probably two or four years ago, I’m not sure. But I was critical of something Senator McCain was doing, and he was going on the media and other radio and television programs, and telling people, (paraphrasing) ‘Look, you can’t take Limbaugh seriously, he’s just an entertainer. He’s a good entertainer, but he’s just an entertainer.’ It might have been some of the parodies that we were playing at the time I think that might have, shall we say, irritated him. The McCain mutiny might have been playing. My memory escapes me on this. But I just want to say here, to clarify this, if anybody has any doubts whatsoever, my differences with Senator McCain are substantive. I’ve never met him, as he has never met me. None of this is personal with any of these candidates, particularly on our side. The Clintons are a little different because they have actively sought to do considerable professional harm to this program and others who do what I do. Now, I don’t know him, and I’m sure McCain is very likable. A lot of people love John McCain, there’s no question about it. But my attention is on issues and always has been.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Last night, PMSNBC, Hardball with Chris Matthews, they really tore into McCain last night, by the way, on the question that he got, Russert said, ‘You’ve said recently that you’re not really that versed in economics.’ And McCain said something, ‘I don’t know where you got that. I don’t think I’ve said that.’ And so the Romney camp produced an e-mail immediately with the very quote, and it’s from something like six weeks ago. Anyway, this is Chuck Todd, the political director at NBC about the Republican presidential primary. Chuck Todd says that this is about the Republicans and Rush.

TODD: I’m hearing from more and more Republicans, look, Limbaugh’s been taking after McCain. I mean, look, he’s gotta get this victory because if he doesn’t get outta here you do wonder if the conservative establishment is finally going to rally around Mitt Romney. Romney has tried to get these folks to rally around him, they haven’t quite done it. If he wins in Florida they may rally around him and it may be enough to stop McCain.

RUSH: This is the first time that I can recall hearing this. Normally what we hear, you know, McCain loses New Hampshire, no biggie, Romney has to win it. If he doesn’t, it’s bad news. We go to New Hampshire, Romney’s gotta win New Hampshire, or it’s over, he’s going to get out. He doesn’t win New Hampshire, stays in. And then McCain wins, and it’s over. This is the first time I’ve heard anybody in the Drive-Bys say McCain has to win or he’s in trouble, because up to now they’ve all been saying it’s McCain, especially if McCain wins Florida, it’s over. That could well be, but I think McCain, if he wins Florida, he’s gonna have to do it by more than a couple points. Otherwise, this is going to go on. This is going to go on anyway because Romney’s not going to get out. When you boil this down, this really is between McCain and Romney now, if you want to cut to the chase on this. This primary race is between McCain and Romney right now. You’d have to say that based on the polling data. So it’s McCain versus Limbaugh in Florida, and I don’t mean to keep hitting you over the head with this, but I’m irrelevant, earlier in the week, I should just shut up.

In fact, on a related post, Andrew Sullivan and his blog at TheAtlantic.com, and he’s got a graph here: ‘McCain vs Rush Limbaugh, Obama vs Bill Clinton.’ Now, do you realize the significance of that? It doesn’t say McCain versus Romney. Andrew Sullivan has Obama running against Clinton, and McCain running against me, therefore in this equation I equal Clinton on the Republican side, so Andrew Sullivan comparing me to a former president in terms of power and this is absurd. Anyway, Sullivan writes: ‘The chart above shows the remarkable polling similarities in John McCain’s recent primary successes. After a slow decline, at some point late last year, voters sensed he really was their best bet on character, policies and viability. And so the battle now is really one between the worst base instincts of both parties and their most promising candidates for the general election. … In fact, the stronger McCain gets, the clearer it is that he represents an opportunity to move past the bitter, angry elements in today’s GOP — elements that have made it very difficult to give a positive case for conservatism’s merits as a governing philosophy.’

Now, Andrew Sullivan, I know you’ve been moving back and forth across the ideological divide in recent years, and I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for the intellect of Andrew Sullivan. This just gets it backwards. ‘McCain represents an opportunity to move past the bitter angry elements in today’s GOP, elements that have made it very difficult to give a positive case’? Folks, you listen to this program, am I mad? Does this program exist and thrive on anger? I would submit to you that no program of this size could sustain itself in our number-one position for this many years if it was nothing but anger. It’s quite the opposite. What’s here on this program is laughs, a good time, optimism, the appropriate criticism of people who don’t seem to get what we’re about and what we’re doing. Yeah, sometimes I get passionate, but it isn’t anger. Who is it that is having to fight off the tendency to display a bad temper on the Republican side? I believe it is Senator McCain. In fact, I believe he even got a question about that last night, and he faked getting mad, and it did draw some chuckles.

You see, this goes to what I was talking about in response to David Gregory’s point about, ‘Will the GOP reform?’ Why do we have to reform ourselves? For crying out loud, we’ve won 20 of the last 28 years presidential elections, what the hell. If anybody needs to reform itself, it’s the Democrat Party. The Democrat Party hasn’t had a presidential candidate get over 50% of the vote since, what, JFK? That’s 1960. This idea that we have to reform, we have to change ourselves? The left would love that, and so would some Republicans who hate conservatives in their midst, particularly evangelicals. They would love for us to have to reform so they wouldn’t be embarrassed to be in our party. But if this reformation takes place, we are forever gonna be a minor league team, like I said in the last hour. We’re going to be AAA, and none of our guys are ever going to be called up to the majors. We’re going to be back to being led by guys like Bob Michel with 130 members in a 435-member House of Representatives being shut out of meetings, and we’re going to be told, ‘Know your place or you’re not even going to get into meetings. And if you don’t know your place, you’re not even going to be invited to play golf with our speaker.’ And we’re going to go, ‘Yes, sir, yes, sir, whatever you give us we’re very happy with. Just make sure that we’re individually reelected every year and we’ll be glad to keep you in the majority.’ What is this?

What is this attitude we have of defensiveness and inferiority that says we are the ones that have to reform? In fact, I would suggest this. The Republican Party is in need of a little reformation, but I wouldn’t call it a reformation, I’d call it a return. We need to go back to our successful roots, and that’s what they are trying to prevent with this need to reform, that means, the subtle lingo there, is we need to become more moderate; we need to have more liberal influence at the top of our party; we need to get rid of the anger and the vitriol. That’s translated as getting rid of talk radio. This is Andrew Sullivan. He concludes with this: ‘No, I don’t agree with McCain on everything. But if it’s a choice between him and Limbaugh, there really is no contest. McCain makes all the right people on the right angry. McCain represents a chance to remake the GOP on reformist lines, just as Obama represents a chance for the Democrats to escape the sleaze and cynicism of the Clintons. Maybe the Republicans, unlike, it appears, the Democrats, have the courage to choose the future over the past, to break a dynasty rather than entrench one. I sure hope they do.’

Now, wait a second. In the first place, I am not on the ballot. Andrew Sullivan is portraying this as a contest between McCain and me. It’s a contest between him and Romney. I want to know how it is that nominating and electing Romney would be investing in the past or a dynasty. His last name is not Bush, and economically he’s far afield from Bush. Folks, this is highly instructive here. If you listen to what these people who reside mostly on the left are telling us they want of us, they want us to be more like them. McCain makes all the right people on the right angry? Now, does that sound like Andrew Sullivan is defining McCain as a conservative? Because the people on the right that McCain has angered are conservatives, Andrew. You used to be one. That’s what needs to be translated about that. So, anyway, that’s that.

CNN, let’s do this one, too. This woman is hopeless, this Carol Costello babe. Wait ’til you hear this. CNN’s Situation Room, this is a montage of her report about me and McCain, and she’s trying to figure out, is talk radio irrelevant or not? And she just can’t figure it out.

COSTELLO: Some believe that those radio talk show hosts have lost influence in large part because of who is running in the Republican primary and who happens to be hot right now. Conservative radio talkers bragged their influence helped put George Bush in office. How times have changed. Now leading many Republican polls, John McCain, and those same talkers aren’t bragging anymore. Voters have betrayed them, despite what’s playing on Rush Limbaugh’s show.

SPOOF PARODY SONG: Just call me maverick John McCain, my only straight talk is my name.

COSTELLO: The syndicated talkers are fuming.

BARR: I think it is a sign that no one or two talk show hosts really wield the influence that they did two or three cycles ago.

COSTELLO: Because it’s a different world in the land of Republican politics. The party is fractured. Conservative talkers do realize that, but they blame John McCain. They accuse him of being covertly liberal, for working with Democrats on immigration and campaign finance reform and for voting twice against President Bush’s tax cuts.

RUSH ARCHIVE: I’m a Republican primary voter, and I would like to hear some straight talk on those issues. Will I? (doing McCain impression) ‘Don’t count on it, Limbaugh.’

COSTELLO: Perhaps another sign of these talkers’ diminishing power, John McCain himself. He appears unfazed by them. Asked about Limbaugh…

MCCAIN: I know, oh, yeah, he’s a very influential person. I’m confident I can secure the base of the party and win the nomination and win the election.

COSTELLO: And maybe he can. There he is on the cover of TIME Magazine as the new comeback kid. The only image likely to drive Limbaugh crazier is if McCain and Mike Huckabee were the TIME cover boys.

RUSH ARCHIVE: I’m here to tell you if either of these two guys get the nomination, it’s going to destroy the Republican Party, it’s going to change it forever, be the end of it.

COSTELLO: Hugh Hewitt believes McCain is doing so well because he’s a darling of the liberal media, including CNN, says Hewitt. He believes we’ve put McCain on top, but thinks Mitt Romney will prevail in the end.

RUSH: Folks, they’re so desperate to write the story of my demise, and yet with each story they do, they illustrate just the opposite. All right, a quick time-out. We’ll come back. There’s a lot more to say about that but it speaks for itself, and we’ve already addressed this end of the Republican Party stuff, you know what that means, you know all that, so we’ll get to your phone calls right after this, when we get back.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Here’s the sound bite of Senator McCain last night on the economic question I’ve been referring to. It’s Tim Russert. He says, ‘Senator McCain, you said repeatedly, quote, ‘I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated on economics.’ Is it a problem for your campaign that the economy is now the most important issue, one that, by your own acknowledgement, you’re not well versed on?’

MCCAIN: I don’t know where you got that quote from. I’m very well versed in economics. I was there at the Reagan revolution. I was there when we enacted the first — or just after we enacted the first tax cuts and restraints on spending. I was chairman of the commerce committee in the United States Senate which addresses virtually every major economic issue that affects the United States of America.

RUSH: Right, screws it.

MCCAIN: I’m very well versed on economics, and that’s why I have the support of people like Jack Kemp, people like Phil Gramm, people like Warren Rudman.

RUSH: Yeah, Warren Rudman as an economic — well, that’s cool. All right, so the Romney camp got it out in time for the post-debate analysis, and it was just five or six weeks ago that McCain said this, that he was inexperienced in economics and had to be educated about it. ‘I don’t know where you got that quote from. I’m very versed.’

Some of you people don’t know who Bob Michel is. He ran the House, literally. Before 1994 the Republicans were a 40-year minority, and at most they had 170 seats out of 435. This is from December 25th of 1995, TIME Magazine: ‘The old minority leader, the sweetly irrelevant Bob Michel of Illinois, would greet freshly elected G.O.P. members with the revelation that ‘every day I wake up and look in the mirror and say to myself, ‘Today you’re going to be a loser.” And after you’re here a while, you’ll start to feel the same way. But don’t let it bother you. You’ll get used to it.’ Now, imagine Tom Coughlin, the head coach of the New Jersey Giants in his pregame speech before the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots saying something like that. ‘Boys, men, we’re losers and you know you’re going to lose, just get used to it. We’re going to get blown out today by these guys and we all know it.’ This is what the Democrats want us to return to. This is what some Republican pundits want us to return to. This is certainly what a bunch of liberals want us to return to as a party: the minor leagues with no chance to go up to the big leagues, to the show, and basically be irrelevant.

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