It’s never been a secret that Rush Limbaugh is—first and foremost—all about promoting Rush Limbaugh.
I suppose that’s okay. Limbaugh is, after all, a radio entertainer dependent upon bringing attention to his program. Certainly, there is no better way to get the attention he requires than to engender controversy at every possible opportunity.
And while Limbaugh often takes it to the edge and beyond in the desire to have an impact as he entertains, there is no denying the power of his booming voice when it comes to firing up The Right—even as his faithful listeners understand that his message is often delivered with tongue planted firmly in check.
This time, that golden tongue appears to have missed the target by a wide margin. The question is, has Limbaugh's cliff-dive, in conjunction with similarly inexplicable misfires by various GOP candidates, taken the eventual GOP presidential candidate over the cliff with him?
Today, Limbaugh issued an apology to Sandra Fluke—the Georgetown Law School student who became the target of Rush’s latest effort to stir the pot—posting the following message on his website—
My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.
I'll leave it to others to analyze the factors that led Limbaugh to apologize—something that he is rarely inclined to do—as there will be endless numbers of pundits who will be ready, willing and able to deal with the topic. I’m also genuinely pleased that Rush did finally see the value of issuing an apology, whatever the motivation, as it gives hope that there still remains some decency on both sides of the political divide.
What is more interesting—at least to me—is the impact Limbaugh's over-the-top comments may have on the coming presidential election.
It is certainly no secret that American women support not only the availability of contraception, but the provision of the Affordable Care Act that will now require employers to provide this coverage without need for co-pay or deductible or, in the case of religious institutions, the insurance companies who cover the employees of these religious affiliates. In the most recent poll conducted by CBS News and the New York Times, we find that 72 percent of women support requiring private insurance companies to provide contraceptive coverage at no cost to beneficiaries.
In today’s America, that kind of number constitutes a landslide, earthquake and typhoon all wrapped up in one.
So, one is left to wonder why GOP candidates would bet the house on an issue that seems guaranteed to drive away women voters, and why an even larger voice—that of Rush Limbaugh—would sign up to further stoke the flames of a sure electoral loser.
I wish I could provide an answer…but I can’t. It makes no sense.
It makes no sense because the simple and clear reality in presidential politics is that you don't win if you can’t carry the women.
In 2008, women ‘outvoted’ men who cast their votes for candidate Barack Obama by 7 percent. The President also won the single female vote by garnering a huge 70 percent while capturing 56 percent of females overall.
Certainly, it is no coincidence that women are now finding their way back into the Obama column in light of what we’ve been witnessing the past few weeks, a deluge often referred to as a Republican "war on women." Interestingly, women are not only coming home to Obama because of his contraception position. In the process of migrating back to Obama, women are also crediting the President with the improvement in the economy.
The good feelings for the President for his one action are tending to engender good feelings for the the President in all actions—and that cannot be good news for Republicans.
So, again, why would GOP stalwarts like Rush Limbaugh choose to further incur the ire of the nation’s women voters when they must know that it is no way to win an election?
All I can do is repeat what a wise, young,well known conservative writer said to me a few days ago over a drink. He noted that were the legendary GOP strategist and political consultant Lee Atwater still alive, none of this would be happening.
He's right. Lee Atwater never would have permitted his party—and its most widely heard voices—to commit such an inexplicable attempt at political suicide.
Maybe America's critical female electoral demographic will forget all of this come November. But if they are anything like my wife—who does not so quickly forget being wronged—it's going to be a very difficult road back for Rush Limbaugh and his friends.
contact Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org