Rush Limbaugh calls Obama 'Barack Hussein Kardashian.' What's he mean?

Rush Limbaugh and the Republican National Committee are in full 'Obama as out-of-touch celebrity' attack mode, but it's not clear that voters care more about that than jobs.

Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP/File
Kim Kardashian (r.) at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner on April 28 in Washington. Also, Kris Jenner (l.) and Sofia Vergara (c.).

Is President Obama the first Kardashian president? The question comes up because radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh insists that is the case.

On his show Wednesday, Mr. Limbaugh talked about this week’s Obama fundraising sweepstakes for dinner with the first couple, Vogue editor Anna Wintour, and actress Sarah Jessica Parker. He played the ads Ms. Wintour and Ms. Parker have cut to promote Obama’s candidacy.

Then El Rushbo opined that this coziness with the New York celebritocracy shows how remote Obama is from ordinary people.

“He is [the] celebrity of the United States. He is not the president, and his whole team’s out there pushing this. Barack Hussein Kardashian is what he has become,” said Limbaugh.

Ouch. Limbaugh is not just calling Obama a celebrity here. He’s calling him a lightweight. Can you picture Kim Kardashian reading a CBO report? Only if each reference to “deficit” were replaced with the word “shoes."

You’ll notice that Limbaugh did not call him “Barack Clooney.” That would have left a different impression. More ... suave.

Well, we’ve got a couple of opinions about this. First, it appears that Limbaugh has gotten whatever talking point memo the Republican National Committee sent out for the week. The RNC and Romney surrogates have been hitting the “out-of-touch-celebrity” theme hard. The RNC even produced its own Web ad on the subject.

Second, we’re not sure this approach works for the GOP. Romney supporter Donald Trump, who knows a thing or two about the limelight, has said as much, pointing out that Republicans are just making Obama look good in comparison with the less-smooth presumptive GOP nominee.

John McCain tried it, and it didn’t help him.

On the whole, voters still personally like Obama more than Romney. Romney’s favorables have gone up as he gains full nominee stature, but Obama’s are still 8 to 10 percentage points higher, depending on the poll.

Plus, voters tend to judge Obama as being more prone to understanding their problems. As George Washington University political scientist John Sides wrote earlier this year, Romney has an “empathy gap” of about 10 percentage points, with voters picking Obama as the person who “cares about people like me."

Celebrities are above all that, aren’t they?

In any case, Mr. Sides notes that all this stuff about the personality of presidential candidates is kind of a sideshow, when compared with the electoral effects of voter perception of the economy, and whether or not it is improving. Republicans might be better off to focus like a laser on jobs, as opposed to the president’s supposed resemblance to a reality TV star whose latest accomplishment was winning a record for world’s shortest marriage.

“In general, be wary of any claim that there is a single path to victory, particularly if that path involves a candidate’s personality,” wrote Sides in the New York Times FiveThirtyEight polling blog.

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