I've heard and seen rave reviews about Rush Limbaugh's speech at CPAC (see Ross Douthat for those reviews he's reacted to thus far). I've just finished watching it and I don't get what the deal is. Frankly, Democrats should be ecstatic if the Republicans adopt Rushism as their programme.
His speech is Joe the Plumber on steroids. Obama won because McCain was too liberal. Obama = Stalin. Barney Frank wants to give poor people free houses. Tax cuts are the way out of the recession. Democrats hate successful people. Obama doesn't want America to be successful. The welfare state is the reason poverty exists. Obama wants to ruin the public education system so that people will be poor and vote for him. Rush even mocked the very concept of communities.
Now that would certainly be scary if it worked. It might be the most frightening this of all. But it doesn't. The McCain campaign adopted a version of this strategy in October 2008, asking the American people to choose between socialism and capitalism. Barack Obama won, and anyone who thinks that McCain would have won by going even further to the wingnut fringe is completely tone deaf.
I think the most telling part of the speech is near the beginning, when Rush says conservatives are for Life, Liberty (or Freedom), and the Pursuit of Happiness. He then says that America might be wondering why the CPAC audience is cheering that creed so furiously, to which he responds, "because WE think that they are under attack."
The fact that he has to explain the underlying assumption of his camp's ideology is proof enough that it's an ideology that Americans don't connect with. Maybe that's why Rush has a 25%-45% approval rating among Independents. Or why only a third of Americans are willing to call themselves Republicans.
Regardless, the Democratic Party is in great shape if the Republicans adopt Rush's command to cast out any and all who think that the welfare state is not evil or that tax cuts do not amount to an economic plan.
And that's why the administration is so keen on the idea of letting Rush be the leader of the GOP.