On Friday night’s All Things Considered, NPR’s “conservative” analyst David Brooks appeared with liberal E.J. Dionne and sounded all his typical notes. He repeated against after the mass staff exodus that Newt Gingrich “couldn’t run a 7-Eleven,” with this amendment: " I think I said on the show a couple of weeks ago the guy couldn't manage a 7-Eleven. I don't think he could manage an ATM machine."
But he also trashed Rush Limbaugh. Brooks insisted Limbaugh and other conservative talk-radio hosts “do not deliver votes.” This being NPR, no one asked Brooks how many votes he delivers in GOP primaries, but the New York Times columnist insisted no one’s going to get elected in the GOP running with a “Wall Street Journal editorial page speech” when the party base is the white “working class” that doesn’t like tax breaks for corporations.
Anchor Melissa Block asked about Obama’s ambassdor to China, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has not announced a run for president but has insisted he won’t be campaigning in Iowa:
BROOKS: I don't think he's running because he's not going to Iowa because too principled for Iowa. He, like Mitt Romney, doesn't have much of a shot there. And I think they're both right. As E.J. says, the idea for both of these two candidates is the Republican establishment gets completely panicked by a Bachmann or Cain victory in Iowa, which is entirely plausible - it could even go one, two. And then they...
DIONNE, joking: That's Harmon Cain, for those not following things closely.
BLOCK: Godfather’s Pizza.
BROOKS: Yes. And then they sweep over to the establishment and they're desperately searching for somebody who seems safe. The one thing to be said about Huntsman is a lot of people are now saying, oh, he's too moderate to be the candidate. It's important to remember that Rush Limbaugh is not the Republican primary voter. Rush Limbaugh campaigned against John McCain for two years; McCain still won the Republican primary in South Carolina and Florida.
Rush Limbaugh and the radio talk jocks are now campaigning against Mitt Romney for saying global warming may be real; campaigning against Jon Huntsman. They do not deliver votes.
BLOCK: The Republican debate Monday night, I'm curious to hear from you both what you're going to be listening for from the Republican candidates. E.J., first.
DIONNE: Well, I think we're going to sort of be curious about how they position themselves vis-a-vis Paul Ryan's budget. I mean, Tim Pawlenty came out with an economic speech where he almost made Paul Ryan looked like a socialist, which is a remarkable thing to say. I mean, it struck me as a very irresponsible, unrealistic view of how small you can cut government, how much you can cut taxes. But I think that is where they, Republicans feel that their base is in terms of both taxes and the size of government. And I think there'll be an almost competition pushing them in that direction in this debate.
BLOCK: David Brooks.
BROOKS: I want to know if they understand their base. Their base is the white working-class. These people have seen their wages stagnate, their jobs decline, their social order fall apart. Do any of them have an actual agenda that plays to the white working-class, as opposed to cutting corporate tax rates?
Huckabee, last time, actually did have an agenda, did have a feel for this population. So far, Pawlenty, who should have a feel - that's his background -gave this speech which was really sort of a Wall Street Journal editorial page speech, not so much a white working-class speech. So I'd like to see if any of them actually understand the people who are actually going to vote for them.
DIONNE: I like David's point trade unionist conservative point about the working-class - and he's right about that.
That's NPR's idea of a raucous crew of political analysts: liberal E.J. Dionne, and some "conservative" echo that Dionne finds very agreeable.