Some top Republicans are voicing concern that the party’s chances for reversing its electoral routs of 2006 and 2008 are being wounded by the flamboyant rhetoric and angry tone of conservative activists and media personalities, according to interviews with GOP officials and operatives. Perhaps it might behoove the GOP to follow the White Houses suggestion that they stop treating Fox News as a legitimate source for news and information.
Perhaps it might behoove the GOP to distance themselves from commentators such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, which is a story in and of itself. Incase Mr. Hannity hasn't noticed, he's no longer as relevant as Glenn Beck. To everyone other then Hannity, that would be good news. To Hannity, it must be unimaginable.
Beck and Limbaugh are the top two commentators that are wildly popular with the conservative base but wildly controversial among other parts of the electorate, and who have proven records of making life miserable for senators and House members critical of their views or influence.
Some of the leading 2012 candidates are described by operatives as grappling with the same tension. The challenge is to tap into the richest source of energy in the party — the disgust of grass-roots conservative activists with President Barack Obama and their hunger for a full-throated attack on his agenda — without coming off to the broader public as cranky and extreme.
"The commentators are part of the coalition, not the whole coalition," Pawlenty said in a phone interview. "The party needs to be about addition, not subtraction — but not at the expense of watering down its principles."
At the same time, there are powerful incentives for Washington politicians to play to the crowd and bow to the influence of commentators like Beck, who at the moment is far more famous than any of the GOP’s congressional leaders.
In fact, as illustrated by Rep. Joe Wilson, elected Republicans are seeing the benefits — national media attention and fundraising — from embracing the trash-talking style of talk show hosts. Wilson went from being a little-known member of the House minority who had repeatedly failed to get on the A-list committees to a cause célèbre for the right wing because he shouted "You lie" at Obama during a joint session of Congress.