WASHINGTON — The Obama White House has begun advancing an aggressive political strategy: convincing the country that the real power behind the Republican Party is not the GOP leaders in Congress or at the Republican National Committee, but rather provocative radio talk show king Rush Limbaugh.
President Barack Obama, top presidential aides and outside Democratic allies have been pushing the message in unison.
At a briefing Monday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked to react to Limbaugh's speech over the weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Limbaugh was characteristically critical of Obama.
"So what is so strange about being honest to say that I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation?" Limbaugh said. "Why would I want that to succeed?"
Gibbs was prepared for the question."I think it would be charitable to say he doubled down on what he said in January in wishing and hoping for economic failure in this country," Gibbs said.
At a private meeting in January, the president told Republican lawmakers that they needed to tune out Limbaugh if they wanted to get things done.
A president's stature is such that anything he makes a focus is immediately elevated. Would Obama be better off ignoring an influential critic with an audience that numbers in the millions? Asked about that Monday, Gibbs stood his ground.
He called Limbaugh "a national spokesperson for conservative views and many in the Republican Party."
"You know," Gibbs said, "I think he elevated himself. He's got, I understand, a fairly popular show."
With the White House working to make Limbaugh the face of the GOP, it is getting some outside assistance.
A tax-exempt group that supports progressive causes — Americans United for Change—is helping finance a television ad that claims GOP leaders are beholden to the radio host. The ad closes with Limbaugh saying of Obama, "I want him to fail."
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