Limbaugh: Friend or Foe of GOP?

Limbaugh more vocal than ever, but is he helping or hurting Republicans?

ByABC News
January 29, 2009, 1:38 PM

Jan. 29, 2009 — -- 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."