This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 26, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Are Democrats and Republicans afraid of Governor Sarah Palin? Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh tells us that might be the case.
VAN SUSTEREN: Rush, thank you for joining us. And today, in your third hour on your radio show, you talked about the news of Governor Palin on a bus tour. Do you think this is the beginning of a campaign for the White House?
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST (Via Telephone): Before I answer the question, Greta, can I address something here? I'm almost or mostly appearing on your program on the phone.
I told some people I was going to be on the phone. They said, why don't you -- why you're never on camera? Why don't they want you on camera?
I said, it's not them, it's me. I'm looking so good these days that people would not hear what I say and they'd be so blinded by my appearance. So, I choose to be on the phone to actually be heard.
Yes. I think this bus trip is certainly designed to get people speculating that's she in. And it's clear, Greta, the thing about Sarah Palin to me is that she has now learned to relish and to profit from all of the attention, be it negative or positive. And she certainly knows negative attention. She has suffered slings and arrows. She's got the media anal exam unlike any other Republican candidate.
And I've never met her. I don't know it appears to me her skin is very thick. I think she now has come to grips with the fact that's part and parcel of the process. But I think what -- one of the things that she enjoys is just rubbing it right back in their face. She knows that they are trying to intimidate her into silence, not running perhaps, being quiet or shutting up.
Here comes the bus tour. I think she's mastering the things that she's going to have to master if she indeed decides at some point to run.
VAN SUSTEREN: You had the Gallup poll. You talked about that today. It says she is two points behind Governor Romney. She hasn't even indicated she jump going in the race.
Does that show a particular strength? How is the Republican Party going to embrace her?
LIMBAUGH: Well, it's interesting. That poll, that result shocked me. The way the Gallup people wrote it up, they say since Governor Daniels out, since Trump is out, he was never in, and since Huckabee is not running. This has opened it up to launch her to number two. Only two points behind Romney, I think that was -- that was startling.
But, Greta, you've asked the question of the day. You've asked the question of the campaign. The Republican Party is really royal right now inside the Beltway intelligentsia power base is not oriented toward conservatism. Conservative Republicans make them nervous.
The inside the Beltway ruling class the elites more oriented toward candidates they can attach the word serious to, which is another way of saying somebody that's boring, somebody that doesn't ruffle feathers, somebody that exudes an air of formal education and sophistication. She doesn't exude that. And I think she'll shake a lot of people up.
You know her as well as I do. You've followed her. You've traveled around the country in various states with her. You know the effect that she has on establishment Republicans. They are just as frightened in their own way as the Democrats are of Palin.
And I -- one thing I think that is inescapable, particularly with when looking at the Democrats. The Democrats will always -- and the media -- will always tell us who they are afraid of by virtue of who they spend time trying to destroy. By the same token, when Mitch Daniels was flirting with possibly getting in, "Washington Post," "New York Times", all quoting Democrats and Republicans, yes, this is who Obama really fears. The White House really, really fears Mitch Daniels.
Really? Would they tell us that if they thought that? Is that who they're really afraid of? They are trying to goad into the race?
Ruth Marcus, I think, of "The Washington Post" please Mitch run so we have a serious campaign that makes Obama better. They're really convoluted thinking, weird thinking.
Bottom line is she scares them. She also scares the Republican establishment. So do some other potential candidates.
VAN SUSTEREN: Like who else scares them? How about Santorum or Bachmann, or Gingrich?
LIMBAUGH: Well, Santorum and Bachmann are great examples. Bachmann especially, is somebody that would -- anybody who is Tea Party-oriented is going to send some chills down the spines of both the Republican and Democrat establishment.
There's something about the Tea Party that frightens them. I think there's a direct connection with the American people that the Tea Party represents. And you go back even Reagan, Greta, was not that embraced by the Republican establishment, particularly during the campaigns of '76 and '80. After he was elected, they kind of had no choice.
But it's always a battle for conservatives to overcome.
VAN SUSTEREN: To what extent do you think the political journalists and the political pundits are so far removed from the Tea Party that they don't understand them and don't realize their impact?
LIMBAUGH: I think they do understand. I think they are far removed by choice. I think they don't want to be in touch with middle class, hardworking people who make -- the kind of people who make the country work. We really are class division politics in this country. And there are people who are elites and who aren't.
The elites are always going to be afraid of people who aren't because there are far fewer elites than non-elites. The non-elites happen to relate to each other -- and so, it is just -- it is a rip more than anything else.
I think it's -- you have a Tea Party candidate who is victorious, running for the presidency. You have a possibility here of upsetting the entire D.C. power and social structure that exists. They are outsiders. They are considered outsiders. They are not considered genuine political professionals.
By definition, Tea Party people aren't. They are people in many cases that have never been involved in politics. They started going to town hall meetings a couple of summers ago and have simply come to life because they don't like the direction the country is going and they don't see their attitude, their views, their wishes and their desires passionately defended or represented in Washington. So, they are taking matters in their own hands, coming up with their own candidates. And that's what propelled the Republican Party to victory in November 2010.
The Republicans have got to realize they did nothing to win that election except not be Democrats.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, today, you talked about the GOP having a message problem. Does that play into this?
LIMBAUGH: Well, yes, but that was a conversation about Ryan and health care, Medicare reform, and this kind of thing. I think the overall Republican message problem is simply a fear they have.
I think that the liberal aspects of the Democrat Party, the social political structures run Washington. I think people never get out of high school. You all always want to be in the big clique. You always want to be approved. You have to be approved by the people who run the big clique if you want to get in the big clique.
And I think Republicans brought into the notion over the years that moderates are the key to victory, the 20 percent who are undecided. Let's get those people. We know 40 percent going to go Democrat, 40 percent going to go Republican, that 20 percent -- the great, great moderate, the open-minded people supposedly non-ideological. Everybody who is a professional political consultant targets those people.
And one of the rules that's been established without getting moderate is that you cannot be argumentative and you can't appear partisan, and you can't appear extreme. You can't appear mean-spirited. You have to be reasonable, calm and you can be critical of your opponent and so forth.
And I think Republicans have bought this. I think they bought -- all it is, is a very clever trick by the left to get Republicans to shut up and not be passionate about themselves, defending what they believe in advancing their causes. It keeps them always on defense.
The message problem stems from Republicans more often than not, allowing the premise of any issue to be set by the Democrats and reacting to it, always on defense. That's what that discussion was about.
And I think that is always going to be a problem for the Republicans, until there is a nominee who is conservative, who is proud conservative, who is passionate conservative, who believes it, who doesn't need a note card and doesn't need a prompter. And can't wait to talk to people about it, can't wait to try to persuade, can't wait to get people to follow him or her in whatever quest they have.
That -- you see that in Netanyahu. Netanyahu -- Benjamin Netanyahu is one of the greatest lessons the Republican Party has. Benjamin Netanyahu is lighting the way, showing the Republican Party the way back in terms of national presidential politics.