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RUSH: Let’s go to the audio sound bites featuring cable TV pundits and analysts. Jim VandeHei this morning on MSNBC on Morning Joe. Jim VandeHei is the executive editor of The Politico.

VANDEHEI: What Newt needs is he needs the anti-establishment conservatives to officially rally around him. He would really need, and I think in pretty short order, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, other conservative leaders who don’t like Washington conservatives to basically all gather around and say he’s our guy.

RUSH: Scarborough replied.

SCARBOROUGH: He’s got Sarah Palin because you listen to her last night on Fox, and I mean she’s everything but a Newt surrogate right now. Not so with Rush Limbaugh, though. A lot of people have mistakenly been saying that Rush has gotten behind Newt. He’s not going there.

And I think Newt Gingrich did more to hurt himself with people like Rush Limbaugh and other bedrock conservatives with those silly Bain attacks a couple of weeks ago.

RUSH: Then Jim VandeHei decided to reply to that.

VANDEHEI: One of our reporters e-mailed Rush Limbaugh yesterday before the vote and Limbaugh said he was undecided on who he was gonna vote for. If he actually ended up voting for Romney, that would be a huge surprise and a big blow to Gingrich.

RUSH: And that prompted Scarborough to keep it all going.

SCARBOROUGH: Very difficult, and Limbaugh yesterday commented on how he was getting hammered by some for not attacking Romney enough, and, you know, I’m not trying to read between the lines, but it’s certainly possible, judging from what he said, that the guy voted for, you know, Romney or Santorum.

RUSH: They’re still dying to know. They’re still trying to figure it out. Staying on the same show, Morning Joe, Scarborough, new guest, TIME Magazine senior political analyzer Mark Halperin, and they’re talking about the primary, and Halperin decided to weigh in. He said this.

HALPERIN: Part of what this month is about is waiting to see what happens to that conservative movement that Jim’s talking about, whether they see Romney now as somebody who has to be stopped.

RUSH: Okay, so that’s Mark Halperin summing it up by saying the next month is gonna be determined by what happens on this show. Is that what you heard, Snerdley? When he said, “Part of what this month is about is waiting to see what happens to that conservative movement that Jim’s talking about, whether they see Romney now as somebody who has to be stopped.” So they are gonna be listening with rapt attention to everything that happens on this show. They do anyway, but particularly for the next month on this show. ‘Cause February’s pretty quiet in terms of cauci and primaries. Super Tuesday is up next.
So we go to last night to MSNBC’s special Florida primary coverage, the cohost Rachel Maddow. By the way, I feel bad for Rachel. She was a Jeopardy question recently and nobody had heard of her. Rachel was a question, I think Jeopardy, some game show on TV, and nobody knew who she was. None of the contestants had ever heard of her. That’s gotta be a blow, particularly when you work at MSNBC and you end up thinking that gazillions watch you every night. To have a pop culture game show have no contestant knowing who you are, that’s got to hurt. Anyway, she was hosting F. Chuck Todd, who is the NBC News political director. And they were having a discussion about criticism of Romney by conservatives. And Maddow said, “Do you think that if the margin is huge enough for Mitt Romney tonight, that he essentially decides he can weather the storm, he doesn’t have to take the Tea Party people seriously enough, he can just keep winning states?” Here’s what F. Chuck Todd said.

TODD: Does he want constantly over the next month an array of folks on talk radio basically attacking him for taking them for granted. You gotta remember about the talk radio base of the Republican Party. I’s not a majority of the party, but it’s the loudest. It’s the most vocal of the party, and he can’t afford to have them constantly badgering him on this. So he has got to figure something out about having to come up with some sort of new plan, new tax idea. That’s the thing I keep hearing, that there’s a lot of people prodding him, come up with a simpler, more easy to digest, and bolder tax plan idea that could excite both the base and yet actually have a conversation with independents.

RUSH: So it’s still the independents. The independents, conversation with the independents, that’s where the future of electability is for the Republican nominee. Got to be there. But what F. Chuck is saying here basically, and the idea that’s formulating out there, is that Mitt Romney has to come up with some kind of new idea that will shut up talk radio. Let me give you a hint here. We don’t need any new ideas. Just embrace some of the old ones. Some of the old tried and tested and true ideas. Embrace those. The talk radio base is the Republican Party. I know they’re thinking they gotta pay attention to this show the next month to find out, but isn’t everything in politics determined by what happens on this show? And I thought Romney owned talk radio through Bain Capital. That’s what they’re talking about. I thought Romney owned it. These people are just all over the board.

Stephen Hayes was on the Fox show last night, and they responded… My last comments on this show yesterday created a “bzz bzz bzz bzz, bzz bzz, bzz bzz bzz bzz,” a big buzz out there. The very last words. I don’t know if you heard them. This is how I ended yesterday’s excursion into broadcast excellence.

RUSH ARCHIVE: Well, another exciting excursion into broadcast excellence is in the can. By the way, folks, just… I have to remind you again that Gingrich debated John Kerry on global warming one point, and they agreed on practically every point. Nobody is innocent. Everybody is guilty of some transgression somewhere against conservatism, except Santorum. See you tomorrow.

RUSH: Well, even Snerdley got wide-eyed at that one. They all, on the other side of the glass, got wide-eyed at that one. That was the last 20 seconds of the program. But they’re out there listening to all of it. That became a big discussion point. On Special Report with Bret Baier, they played that bite. They had Stephen Hayes from the Weekly Standard. Baier said, “What about Santorum, essentially attracting conservatives who may be disenchanted with this back-and-forth in Florida?”

BAIER: At the end of the Rush Limbaugh show today, he mentioned —

HAYES: Rush did.

BAIER: — Rush Limbaugh did. Said, you know, Rick Santorum is the only one in this race who doesn’t have to apologize for anything that he’s done or hasn’t strayed from conservatism. Was that tantamount to an endorsement? People are debating that. Probably short of an endorsement, but I know Santorum’s people are quite happy that Limbaugh gave him that shout-out.

RUSH: All right, so what do we have? We have now the media thinking that I have endorsed them all! Not endorsed, but I’ve expressed a preference for all of them. From Jim VandeHei and the guys at Politico, to F. Chuck Todd, to the people at Fox on the Bret Baier roundtable. I’d say brilliantly played here. (interruption) Hmm? (interruption) Did I call Mitt…? No I didn’t call Mitt and congratulate him. But neither did Newt either. Not even a robocall. Did I call Mitt and congratulate him? Why would I…? (laughing) You mean for myself, or for Newt? “Hey, Mitt? Hi, it’s Rush.

Yeah, I just talked to Sarah and Newt. We’re all congratulating you.” Is that what you mean? (interruption) Yeah, right. Alex Castellanos. He’s a Republican strategerist. He was on CNN’s special Florida primary coverage last night with Anderson Cooper, who said, “Can Gingrich continue to raise the money down the road, especially if Romney has a good February in other states? Can he resist what will be growing pressure if Romney continues to win?”

CASTELLANOS: I think the guy to watch coming out of all this is Santorum. As we go into some of these, uh, states coming up, who’s the Republican that has the highest favorable ratings? Santorum. If Romney has to keep his foot — with negative ads — on Gingrich’s throat, that means Santorum can run loose a little bit. If conservatives are going to unite on an anti-Romney candidate, I think the bet now is Santorum.

RUSH: By the way, this isn’t over, folks. They still only have 48-some-odd delegates that have been pledged out of 1,100 plus. I think the number is 1,144. It isn’t over. And by the way, the further north you go in Florida, the closer to “The South” you get, and Gingrich won north Florida. “The cracker vote.” The conventional wisdom is that Gingrich is gonna do very well in the southern states — Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Geo’gia — just as he did in South Carolina. He did well there, so it isn’t over by any stretch. They’re trying to go make it sound like it is because of moment — and money. That’s the thing. What you know Newt’s biggest challenge is right now? Finding people who will give him money. Given all of the thought, the conventional wisdom, all the media, finding people who will donate is going to be big challenge. But 94% of the delegates are still up for grabs. Snerdley, you asked me if I’m going to call Romney. You gotta put yourself in my position. You have to love all of your children equally. I’m the father of the party. I can’t show favoritism.

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