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.
Donald Trump -- I said from the get-go that the real value of Trump and the reason why there was much interest and excitement about Trump is because he was taking it to the opposition. He was taking it to Obama. Not just on the birth certificate. He was taking it to him on the future of the country.
He was taking -- Mr. President, you are destroying job creation. You are destroying the opportunities that our kids and grandkids should have for prosperity in the future. You have to throw all of this moderate, "don't offend anybody" kind of speech out the window.
These are desperate times. If you really believe these are desperate times and if you believe the future of the country is founded, hangs in the balance, and a lot of people do and a lot of voters do, you're not going to reach them by being milquetoast.
VAN SUSTEREN: Isn't that -- I mean, didn't President Obama, though -- didn't he reach out to those moderates? And he was sort of the calm, the professorial type. Isn't that how he got that 20 percent?
LIMBAUGH: Well -- but, yes -- but that's 2008. This is a different time now. He's got a record to defend, which he can't. He's got a totally indefensible record.
I think Obama is easily beatable.
Now, what the Democrats and the media are trying to establish is that he's unbeatable. That he's so powerful. That he's so authentic. He's got such a wonderful way of communicating, that this is not the time to try to beat him.
And the Democrats are going to say, look, this was much worse than we thought. This economy -- much, much worse. When we got here, we had our policies put in place. Normally, they would have worked well by now.
Yes, they are just starting to have an affect, three years, 2 1/2 years. This is going to be a much longer process than even we thought, and it's going to be a big mistake to change horses in middle of the stream.
That's their campaign. The policies, the fixes are just now really taking hold, it would be a total mistake to turn this country over to the Republicans who want to go back to the failed policies so you can hear the same old cliches. That's what -- that's what the campaign is going to be.
The truth of the matter is, the Democrats have an indefensible record. Their record is so defensible, they would not even propose and defend a budget that outlines what their ideals and their opinions and views are for the future.
There has never been a greater time -- greater time than now for the Republican Party to genuinely contrast itself against the Democrat Party and the American left and show the American people a genuinely different direction for this country that takes us in a direction and genuine real, prosperity on the part of people who work and make this country work.
It's such a golden opportunity. There's no reason to be frightened of Obama. There's no reason to be afraid of the Democrats. There's no reason to allow them to make us timid and to shut up, and only try for 20 percent of the electorate, which is a bogus premise any way.
I think if it's Palin, for example, or if it's Santorum, Herman Cain, if it's Rick Perry, you watch how these people -- these genuine conservatives are going to campaign for every vote. They are not going to try to get the Hispanic with this message. They're not going to try to get women with this message. And they're not going to try to subdivide the American electorate into a bunch of different groups, some victimized and some not. They're not just going to go for America.
Here's our message: We're Americans. We love America. We love the country.
Here's how we make it better. Here's how we save the country from current policies. It doesn't matter what kind of an American you are. If you are with us and you want a better country, and you want a place in it, we are the way to go. That's the message.
VAN SUSTEREN: If you were President Obama, who would be the Republican you would not run against -- not want to run against, and why?
LIMBAUGH: If I were Obama, I would not want to run against Palin. Contrary to what everybody says -- I don't want her to run. You know, when they tell us that's what they hope for, it's opposite. I wouldn't want to run Chris Christie if I were them. I wouldn't want to run against Santorum. I wouldn't want to run against Rick Perry.
I think, the truth of the matter is, in the White House, the truth of the matter is, if you could get hold of their internal reelect polls, I will bet you that they are bad. And I think what they believe is, they've got to do everything they can to make sure that whoever the Republican nominee is not a conservative.
They think they can beat a moderate Republican. They know they can beat a liberal Republican. They know they can beat a Republican who is afraid to be a Republican.
But they are mostly afraid of a genuine, full-throated, passionate, articulate conservative.
VAN SUSTEREN: We have much more of our interview with Rush Limbaugh coming. And straight ahead: Rush is talking about President Obama. What he says the president is doing now that is working against him.
And remember the back-and-forth between Rush and Speaker Gingrich? You'll hear from Rush about that. That's next.
VAN SUSTEREN: Here's more of our interview with Rush Limbaugh.
VAN SUSTEREN: The president is overseas. I think in the past -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- but that you thought his going overseas has been a bit of an apologist. How is he doing overseas in your opinion now?
LIMBAUGH (Via Telephone): Well, you know, I -- this is a tough questions for me, because I don't like saying, and I don't like thinking what I think. I just, Greta ... I didn't know what year it is when he signs the guest book -- wandering aimlessly answers in joint press conferences.
He's got a problem because everything Cameron is doing in the U.K. is working. So, Obama can't in any way shape, manner or form agree with him. He's got a problem right there. He has to wander and meander and not give credit to Cameron, whose policies are starting to have -- Europe is doing a 180 going in the exact opposite direction that Obama is trying to take America.
They've had their experience with well-intentioned, big hearted socialism, it doesn't work. You always run out of somebody else's money. It just isn't possible. Obama hasn't learned it yet.
So, I think the more he goes overseas and speaks, the more obvious it is that he's -- he doesn't have all these great (INAUDIBLE) -- he doesn't have all that much experience. And his life skills are not enough to compensate for it. I think -- I think it's obvious, here's a guy that spent 153 days in the U.S. Senate. Prior to that, a lot of time in Chicago organizing the community, rabblerousing and so forth, a few years in the Illinois state house and it shows.
VAN SUSTEREN: And in terms of -- do you give him credit for doing anything in terms of his administration. Is there anything that you think that he's done particularly well?
LIMBAUGH: Well, I always get this question. "Can't you say one nice thing?"
I think we are really serious time. I think the country faces a serious crossroads.
And I always tell you -- Greta, you are talking earlier about messaging the Republican Party. Let me tell you, there are many in the Republican Party establishment who do not see it at all the way I've described it. They don't think the country is in trouble. They don't think all this spending and this indebtedness portend dire consequences.
There's that division in the Republican Party in and of itself. So, a lot of people would not agree with me how dire the consequences are. I don't think the country has founded and would stand four more years of this with no waivers from Obamacare. Four years of this stuff being implemented, it could be really, really difficult to get the country back if there's four more years of Obama-ism inculcated throughout society.
So, yes, I -- look, I'm sure there are some positive things. I wouldn't change my mind about supporting him or his policy.
VAN SUSTEREN: Has Speaker Gingrich recovered from making that statement about the right wing social engineering?
LIMBAUGH: Oh, yes. I don't know if he's recovered yet, but anybody can.
Look at -- look at this IMF guy. One day, he is the fait accompli, next president of France. Five minutes later, he's in the same situation as Eliot Spitzer, client number nine. That's how fast things can change in politics.
Any poll right now really is worthless. The election is not for 18 or 19 months, whatever it is. Polls are -- in terms of who would win the nomination of the presidency right now, don't mean anything. There's way too much that can happen, particularly things that are unpredictable.
So, yes. It would be silly to say that Newt can't recover from that. Time will tell.