Right-Wing Pundits Jockey for Influence

Rush Limbaugh, Erick Erickson, and Charles Krauthammer are issuing GOP directives

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As the battle for the soul of the Republican Party plays out ahead of tonight's House vote on a debt ceiling bill, right-wing pundits are basking in the glow of a big news story with a distinct Republican focus. As they try to guide their troubled flock through a tumultuous fight over whether to support House Speaker Boehner's bill, here's where they're coming down on the issues and who they're brushing up against:

Erick Erickson  In a self-important blog post this week, the Redstate blogger says he's received "call after call after call from members of the United States Congress" about their decision to support the bill. In the post titled "The Absolution I Cannot Give," Erickson explains what he tells the Republicans worried about supporting the Boehner plan and knowing that he himself opposes it. "At the moment of crisis you are worried and second guessing yourself and looking for alternatives, ways out, and most of all a clear conscience... I can give no absolution for what you may be about to do. I can offer no alternatives." Is he really that powerful? The Washington Post's Rachel Weiner was curious and posed the question to staffers and members of Congress. Although his traffic isn't huge ("the site hosts about 178,000 unique visitors and one million page views monthly, according to comScore") staffers and aides said his influence looms large. “Erick's impact was real in gubernatorial races. And not only was it real, it was positive,” said Nick Ayers, who directs Tim Pawlenty’s 2012 presidential campaign. “While he's typically tough on national political committees, I found that by simply reaching out, making clear your goals and plans, he was often a team player and brought energy, excitement, and money to candidates he would get behind.” GOP strategist Rick Wilson says Erickson is "one of the new centers in the conservative movement.”

Charles Krauthammer  Today, The Washington Post columnist has been receiving widespread praise for his column in National Review pushing Republicans to embrace the Boehner plan and stop proposing an amendment to the Constitution. "Under our constitutional system, you cannot govern from one house alone," he writes. "Today’s resurgent conservatism, with its fidelity to constitutionalism, should be particularly attuned to this constraint, imposed as it is by a system of deliberately separated — and mutually limiting — powers." He advocates the Boehner plan because "It’s clean. It’s understandable. It’s veto-proof. (Obama won’t dare.) The Republican House should have passed it weeks ago." His argument was seen as so forceful that Fred Barnes executive editor at The Weekly Standard (National Review's arch-rival) called it the "best article you will read today" in a message retweeted by the likes of ABC News White House correspondent Jake Tapper and a slew of other non-partisan reporters. But are Krauthammer's fans influential in the firebrand Tea Party movement? It's a question worth asking.

Rush Limbaugh  If ever there was a sign of Limbaugh's clout: this week Boehner briefed the radio shock jock on his debt plan over the phone. "The conservative radio host said Boehner outlined his two-step plan that includes $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and a $1 trillion hike in the debt ceiling," reported The Hill listening in on Limbaugh's Monday broadcast. "In the second step, a commission would be appointed to come back with additional deficit-reduction proposals, which the Congress could then vote on." But despite Boehner dropping an enviable scoop to Limbaugh earlier in the week, the radio host has come out hard against his bill:

If the Democrats get their way, the Republicans will pass the Boehner bill. It will go to the Senate, where it will immediately be announced dead on arrival. And then, dingy Harry will announce, "But, there's enough here. We can work with this. We didn't really realize all that was in this. There's stuff in here -- yeah, yeah. ... Maybe I can get some Democratic votes on it after all."

And then miraculously -- miraculously -- the prince of compromise, Harry Reid, steals the day, by compromising with just an outrageous dead on arrival bill. He gets all kinds of credit for hard work, rolling up sleeves and that magic compromise, and sends that back to the house. Okay Republicans, ball's back in your court. Here's your bill with a few modifications.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.