Talk radio host Mark Levin has been criticizing Republican frontrunner for weeks, ever since Trump attacked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) over his Canadian birth. On Tuesday, in the aftermath of Cruz’s victory in Iowa, Rush Limbaugh was more critical of Trump than usual, knocking the mainstream media for anticipating Trump’s demise, but also punishing Trump for running against Cruz in Iowa by promising that he could make deals with Democrats in Washington.
Limbaugh was careful to praise Trump for leading the media fight: “We have a very strong outsider in Donald Trump, who is showing the way in illustrating how to oppose the establishment and what not to be afraid of.”
However, he said that Trump erred by promising to compromise with the left:
In a Republican primary, you do not win if you’re going to sound like a liberal Democrat criticizing Ted Cruz. And it wasn’t just health care. How many of you remember (I pointed this out when it happened) Mr. Trump pointing out that you can’t do anything if you can’t make deals, can’t cooperate? Part of his criticism of Ted Cruz is he’s hated; nobody likes him. Trump said, “I can do deals with Harry Reid and Pelosi. I know these people. I like these people. Schumer? I can do deals.” No, no, no, no! We don’t want to do any more deals with these people. We want to beat those people. There are many things that harm Mr. Trump, but not showing up at the debate is not one of them.
This author offered a similar analysis at the time Trump made the remark a week ago, saying he had given Cruz a “closing argument”: “What Trump misses is how much the conservative base loathes both the GOP establishment and the Democrats. Trump’s pledge to be a deal-maker is also poorly timed, coming at a moment when Cruz is challenging his conservative credentials. Trump has yet to resolve those doubts: it is too early to talk about deals.
On Tuesday, citing exit poll data, Limbaugh argued that conservatives candidates had done best in Iowa–clearly placing Trump outside of that group.
This is asking people, “Does this candidate share my values?” This is an ideological question, in my estimation. I think this indicates that 5% of the voters that went in there last night and caucused think Trump shares their values as a conservative. Thirty-eight percent think that of Cruz, and 21% think that of Rubio. Now, if you add Cruz and Rubio, if you add their totals, you get 51% of the vote….
That’s 51% of the vote. Trump 24% of the vote. If you want to you can add Ben Carson, who’s demonstrably conservative, and you’re up to 60% of the vote in the Hawkeye Cauci was for conservatives. It works every time it’s tried, is my point. Conservatism wins every time it’s tried. When somebody tries to fake it, real conservatives are gonna spot it and it isn’t gonna fly.
Limbaugh later added that while Trump had excited voters, and provided a “vessel” for their anger at Washington, Cruz had helped give voice to that anger in the first place, aiming it at Obamacare and the establishment.
In addition, Limbaugh talked up the prospects of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who finished a strong third behind Cruz and Trump in Iowa. While he was becoming the establishment’s preferred choice, and erred by participating the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill, he was one of the candidates that he could support, Limbaugh implied.
Trump used early support from talk radio and other conservative media to help build his campaign, though some seem to have expected that Trump would fade or bow out in favor of Cruz.
Regardless, the Iowa result virtually ensures a good season of ratings and traffic–and reaffirms conservative media’s high importance to the Republican primary.