ABC News' Stu Schutzman reports:
Family Feud, Republican Edition, is still very much alive thanks to conservative lightning rod, Rush Limbaugh. The spark came via Limbaugh's recent comment that he hoped President Obama would fail. Some moderate and even conservative Republicans who initially took exception quickly backed down. Mess with Rush at your own peril. But former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took on the powerful talk show host this weekend.
"You've got to want the President to succeed," said Newt on Meet The Press. "You're irrational if you don't want the President to succeed...because if he doesn't succeed the country doesn't succeed."
Limbaugh wasted little time firing back, this is after all a fight for the hearts and minds of the party. "I'm frankly getting tired of talking about Newt. I mean, it's a pointless exercise," Limbaugh told his considerable radio audience. "I mean, next week Newt could come out and profess his total admiration and love for me if it would serve his purposes," he continued. "They're running TV ads against me. Newt Gingrich wishes they were running TV ads against him."
"Let's face it," says the editor of themoderatevoice.com, "the Rush Limbaugh Versus (you fill in the blank) story isn't just a story with “legs” -- but a story with as many legs as a centipede."
And it's a story over rimmed with dirty laundry most Republicans presumably want to go away. After the recent beatings the party has taken, a Rasmussen Poll out yesterday indicates many Republicans now believe it's a rudderless ship. An overwhelming majority of Republicans, 68 percent say the Republican party has no clear leader. Only 5 percent view John McCain as the leader and just 2 percent give the nod to Rush Limbaugh.
"Rush is to the Republicanism of the 2000s what Jesse Jackson was to the Democratic party in the 1980s," writes former Bush aide David Frum in Newsweek. "He plays an important role in our coalition, and of course he and his supporters have to be treated with respect. But he cannot be allowed to be the public face of the enterprise…"
And does Frum speak for other Republicans when he postulates that Limbaugh wants to "transform the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan into a party of unanimous dittoheads -- and we don't care how much the party has to shrink to do it. That's not the language of politics. It's the language of a cult."
And that's pretty strong language from David Frum. And this could be a long and drawn out fight for the heart and soul of the Republican party...but at least it shows the party still has a pulse.