It is estimated that Limbaugh reaches 20 million listeners, but most of them probably vote because he keeps them in constant fear of a Democratic "takeover." And in 2002, the last mid-term election, only 80 million people voted according to the Election Assistance Commission. So before substantive issues are rolled out, Rush is leaving Democrats just over 60 million people to woo over. On top of that, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and a host of wannabes flood cable news and AM airwaves from morning to night, reaching additional millions of voters. If Democrats continue to let these airwave politicians go unchallenged, then they will continue to stay out of power.
Substantive issues and the people who care about them are in the pocket of Democrats. With record deficits, the Jack Abramoff investigations, an unpopular war and a gay sex scandal that the Republican leadership apparently covered up, only Osama Bin Laden could fail to oust the vulnerable Republican incumbents. But it is not so easy. Democrats must veer away from the script when conservatives try to turn rational debate into a high school parking lot fist fight. Bill Clinton stopped the show the instant he sniffed out Wallace, and caught his assailant with a surprise left hook. Conservatives get flustered when they are challenged. They look bad.
Mark Foley's sex-scandal broke into the news last Friday. It is exactly the type of gut-punching issue that Democrats could use to win back chunks of Limbaugh's audience. Only one problem: in two weeks, Limbaugh will have pumped his listeners up with enough vituperation against the liberals to neutralize this scandal. For example, four days after the scandal broke, Limbaugh announced that "[liberal Democrats] don't find what Mark Foley did repugnant...It's a thrill. Believe me it's a thrill."
Rush's fans may be simple-thriving on anger-but they are not dumb. For instance, if Rush were caught molesting a little boy his career would be over tomorrow. His fans would never stand for that. He may not be that bad, but he is vulnerable.
Democrats need to frame the way people perceive Rush. In the past week alone, his comments have careered toward an outright defense of Foley's behavior; he is a company spokesman, calling the sky green and the grass blue for a paycheck; he is a hit man, as Clinton described him; he is a drug addict; he is an elitist, richer than most of the Democrats he trash-talks; he is prideful, often referring to himself as talent on loan from God; and worst of all, he does all his trash talking into a microphone from the safety of a heavily secured cave-pretty gutless.