The GOP Still Struggling To Find Its Voice

Who truly represents the GOP? While the purity test is still being administered, new poll data reveals that the most influential conservatives aren't in politics - they're personalities like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

A poll released by Vanity Fair and 60 Minutes reveals that Rush Limbaugh is considered the most influential conservative voice, by a wide margin:

The radio host was picked by 26 percent of those who responded, followed by Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck at 11 percent. Actual politicians - former Vice President Dick Cheney and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin - were the choice of 10 percent each.

However, that influence that Limbaugh and Beck enjoy can be transferred to possible candidates in the form of positive coverage and endorsements. The Washington Post sums up the media power dynamics, explaining:

In a new Washington Post poll, Palin beats other GOP leaders on two questions: who best represents the party's core values, and who Republicans would vote for if the presidential nomination battle were held today. But she has particular appeal to the loyal followers of Limbaugh and Beck, two of the most popular conservative talk show hosts in the country.

Overall, 18 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents cited her as the person most representative of the party's core values, the highest percentage among prominent Republican figures. Among those who regularly listen to Limbaugh, however, Palin was cited by 48 percent, and among Beck's viewers, it was 35 percent, far surpassing others.

Interestingly enough, some party members are still lukewarm on Palin, so conservative activists have launched a new campaign - Tricky Dick 2.0 in 2012!

The organization - "Draft Dick Cheney 2012" - launched on Friday, and unveiled their new Web site. Their aim: To convince the former vice president to seek the Republican presidential nomination in the next race for the White House. But there may be a major roadblock to the group's pitch - Cheney himself.

"The 2012 race for the Republican nomination for President will be about much more then who will be the party's standard bearer against Barack Obama, the race is about the heart and soul of the GOP," said Christopher Barron, one of the organizers of the Draft Cheney movement. "There is only one person in our party with the experience, political courage and unwavering commitment to the values that made our party strong – and that person is Dick Cheney."

Sigh.

Matthew Yglesias shares my sentiments:

I know some liberals who are excited about the prospect of a joke candidate like Sarah Palin or Dick Cheney getting the GOP nomination in 2012. Not me. The basic fact of the matter is that power tends to alternate between the two political parties. Ultimately, the nation's interests require both parties to nominate the best people possible. So I hope the Republicans find someone who's very smart and compelling and does an excellent job of identifying and explaining the flaws in Barack Obama's approach. Cheney couldn't possibly win a presidential election . . . unless somehow he could, in which case the country would be set for a world of pain.

Poll: Limbaugh is most influential conservative [AP]
Palin particularly popular among fans of Limbaugh and Beck [Washington Post]
New group tries to convince Cheney to run in 2012 [CNN]
Cheney for President? [Think Progress]

Earlier: Purity Balls: Republican Party Proposes Test For Politicians