GOP, base not on the same page

GOP, BASE NOT ON THE SAME PAGE…. Republican leaders on the Hill have been in high dudgeon this week over the controversial AIG bonuses. It’s not altogether clear what their message is, but they’re “outraged” and they’d really appreciate it if we’d all blame Democrats for the whole mess.

But as it turns out, there’s a small flaw in the strategy: leading far-right activists, usually content to follow the party’s instructions, aren’t sticking to the script. It’s not that Limbaugh, Hannity, & Co. are defending Democrats, but as Greg Sargent noted, they just don’t care about the controversy of the week. Indeed, these far-right voices are some of the very few who are tacitly defending AIG.

Rush Limbaugh recently said: “I am all for the AIG bonuses” and attacked the Obama administration for trying to undo them. He also blasted Dem efforts to get the names of the AIG bonus recipients as “McCarthyism.”

Fox News followed suit, also comparing Dems to “Joe McCarthy.” And Sean Hannity has now derided efforts to tax the execs by saying: “In other words, we’re going to just steal their money.”

There’s not really a direct contradiction between the GOP leaders’ professed outrage over the bonuses and the conservative media’s condemnation of efforts to recoup them. But the conservative attack on Dems is rooted in free market orthodoxy, which GOP leaders have implicitly ditched in order to get outraged.

This split could muddy the GOP message and even compromise the party’s efforts to use AIG to damage Obama.

Indeed, since Greg wrote this, these same conservative characters have been even more vocal on this point. Yesterday afternoon, Hannity continued to support AIG, as did Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin.

It’s an interesting disconnect. By all appearances, the right-wing media figures are, oddly enough, sticking to conservative economic principles, while right-wing lawmakers are simply hoping to exploit public frustration for partisan gain, whether it makes sense or not.

Indeed, rank-and-file Republicans may be leaning in the direction of the media figures. The Gallup poll released yesterday gauging public anger over the AIG bonuses showed that Republican voters are far less “outraged” by the matter than Democrats, and are far less interested in seeing the government try to block or recover the bonus money than Democrats or Independents.

All of this, at a minimum, complicates Republican officials’ strategy here.