Frank Luntz, a major Republican consultant and pollster, called Rush Limbaugh and right wing radio "problematic" for the Republican Party in a leaked recording by Mother Jones.
Speaking to college students at the University of Pennsylvania at an event sponsored by the College Republicans on April 22, Luntz spoke off-the-record about the damaging impact of right wing media on national discourse and on the Republican Party's chances of retaining the House in 2014.
Luntz wanted to discuss the political polarization and right-wing media, but refused to do so on the record, fearing political backlash. When pressed on to talk, Luntz requested all students stop their recording devices, but Aakash Abbi, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics, and economics, recorded Luntz on his iPhone without Luntz's permission.
Abbi's recording, published by Mother Jones, shows the deep rifts between the Republican Party and right-wing media personalities like Limbaugh and Beck that have the influence over the Republican Party's most conservative voter base:
"And they get great ratings, and they drive the message, and it's really problematic. And this is not on the Democratic side. It's only on the Republican side ...[inaudible]. [Democrats have] got every other source of news on their side. And so that is a lot of what's driving it. If you take — Marco Rubio's getting his ass kicked. Who's my Rubio fan here? We talked about it. He's getting destroyed! By Mark Levin, by Rush Limbaugh, and a few others. He's trying to find a legitimate, long-term effective solution to immigration that isn't the traditional Republican approach, and talk radio is killing him. That's what's causing this thing underneath. And too many politicians in Washington are playing coy."
This isn't the first time Luntz has critiqued the Republican Party's messaging, but he has not publicly come out against the influence of right wing media. Nonetheless, this could be another salvo in the Republican civil war. Abbi, the student who recorded Luntz, said he felt Luntz was being disingenuous in his request for an off-the-record statement, having earlier offended some of the students in attendance.
Luntz continued to discuss the disconnect between the Republican Party's politicking and the right wing media's scare-mongering. Calling the entire Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke episode "irresponsible," Luntz clearly stated that the Republican Party's declining base is not being helped by the domineering influence of right-wing media hosts like Limbaugh who threaten pollsters like him with "consequences."
Regardless of the motive behind Luntz's description of the right-wing media and Republicans, this continuing unraveling of the Republican Party's structural and ideological framework is surely causing headaches.
Are we seeing the fault lines in the party? Discuss with me below or on Twitter @shwetika.