Limbaugh: Friend or Foe of GOP?

As members of the Republican National Committee try to regroup from the disastrous election cycle and prepare to choose the party's next chairman, some Republicans are left wondering whether conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh has emerged as a leader – albeit an unofficial one – of the GOP.

In the week since President Obama took the oath of office, Limbaugh's name was dropped by the new president as someone Republicans should not listen to, spurring the radio superstar to boast that he believes Obama is "frightened" of him.

In today's Wall Street Journal, Limbaugh penned an op-ed in which he proposed his own version of the stimulus package.

And when one Republican congressman spoke out against Limbaugh – effectively calling him a hindrance to the party – the talk show host booked the congressman on his syndicated radio show, allowing him an opportunity to grovel and ask for forgiveness.

"I want to express to you my very sincere regret for those comments," Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., told Limbaugh.

"I just wanted to tell you Rush, and all our conservative giants who help us so much to maintain our base and grow it and get back the majority, that I regret those stupid comments," said Gingrey.

With the Republican Party still stinging from the Democratic landslide, Sydney Blumenthal, a former Clinton adviser and author of "The Strange Death of Republican America: Chronicles of a Collapsing Party," said that Limbaugh is finding himself in a familiar position.

"I remember when The National Review ran Limbaugh on their cover in 1993 saying he's the leader of the Republican Party," said Blumenthal. "This is a reoccurring pattern that when the Republicans hit rock bottom, Limbaugh is proclaimed the leader of the party."

"There are no obvious agreed national leaders of the Republican Party right now, and so the radio talk show celebrity substitutes for an actual political leader," he said. "While the stock market's declined, the market for loud talk show hosts has not."

Limbaugh: The Voice of the GOP?

Gingrey's original sentiments – weighing just how much Limbaugh is helping mobilize and unify the struggling party – haven't gone unnoticed among party members who have been weighing the pros and cons of having a polarizing figure like Limbaugh on their team.

Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio believes that Limbaugh is just what the party needs to regain its focus.

"From the standpoint of providing a focal point I think he's being helpful," said Fabrizio. "After two rounds of dismal elections any of those Bush guys who are left and haven't drowned are in life rafts looking for direction."

"Someone who is kind of like true North – and that's the role Limbaugh is playing," he said. "He's out there sticking to his guns, talking about principle and there are a lot of these guys who are hungry for some direction."

Republican consultant Reggie Bashur agrees with Fabrizio, and says that Limbaugh's wide reaching clout could do the party good, but only if specific and tangible ideas – and not just rejections of Obama's administration – are proposed.

"Limbaugh is well-respected and has a huge audience and is very influential among the Republican base and the primary voter," said Bashur. "I think he could help push some ideas as an alternative."

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