SWOONRobynBeck:AFP:Getty

I was struck by these comments from the recent Carville-Greenberg focus group study of the conservative base:

I just think that Obama was molded and I think that he is being fed what he can and can- not do and what to do next and it seems like he is a puppet in this whole game. I don't know who the people are behind him really but I don't think it is him. I think it is some- body, I think he is just the figurehead... I think it is George Soros... I do too... Is he the guy with money?... Yes... They say follow the money.

I think he has a money person behind him that has planned this long before because he has gotten pushed into a position that is unbelievable for a community organizer ... I come from Chicago so I know how he got there and I don't like his tentacles into ACORN and everything else that are subsidiaries and it all goes back... He couldn't do it by himself.

These people believe there is a hidden plot to destroy America, and it has something to do with black community organizations and Jewish money. There's a powerful, lingering sense - exploited by Beck - that there's some kind of deception behind all this, some shadowy plot that even they don't quite understand, but somehow know it's there:

That is why everything is closed, because he didn't want you to know these things. He has closed his college records. You can't go through there...

The records from the hospital in Kenya and I think there are some areas in Hawaii and also something to do with his involvement in government in Illinois, but in every place that he has gone there have been areas that he has closed files. Every other president has allowed their background and who they are to be exposed, to be investigated except for this president... And why is that?...

Just everything. I mean where you were born, where you went to school, what are your school records... And how dare you ask... I mean it goes on and on and on.

The trouble for the GOP, of course, is that the critical votes they need - those of fiscally conservative independents - worry about Obama's policies and the threat of bigger government, but don't buy the hysteria, conspiracy theories or contempt for the president:

The independent voters expressed clear concerns about Obama - especially that he is doing ‘too much, too fast,’ that he is spending too much, that they do not understand his health care reforms, and that he does not have a clear plan for bringing jobs back to the US – some of which certainly touched on the conservative Republicans’ concerns. But they still fundamentally like and respect him on several levels and are very clearly rooting for him to succeed. 57 percent of these voters believe that Obama is willing to work with both parties, and 45 percent see him as a strong leader.

The GOP base, in other words, has created a wedge for Obama. And the more convinced the Beck-viewers get, the more estranged they become from the sane, independent voters who can bring the GOP back. The greatest emblem of this is - surprise! - Sarah Palin, who is the clear favorite of the base for the next presidential race. Again, the gap between the views of the base and the nearest group of conservative independents is vast:

When it comes to Sarah Palin, there was almost universal agreement that she could never be elected president, with most citing her inexperience and  baggage as obstacles too great to overcome.  But even more important to them, most felt she was ultimately driven by greed and ambition more than anything else and would rather use her new-found fame to enrich herself than improve the country.

But for the base, she's iconic. If I had to guess, I'd say she'll be the next nominee.

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