GOP Chairman Apologizes to Limbaugh

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Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele is calling the sparring between him and conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh "a sideshow distraction."

Steele told NBC's Today that while there are disagreements among conservative leaders, his job is to strike a balance between the opposing views.

"My job is to try to balance that," he explained. "I wasn't that effective at it this week."

The rubarb between the two conservatives began during Steele's CNN interview Saturday - the same day Limbaugh delivered the keynote address to the Conservative Political Action Conference, at its annual meeting in Washington D.C.

Steele called Limbaugh's talk show "incendiary" and "ugly." He later apologized on Monday, saying that the radio host was a "national conservative leader."

"There's a lot of popcorn going around for folks who are watching this and enjoying it," Steel explained. But the GOP chairman says he's going to concentrate on moving the party forward.

The Limbaugh Attraction?

The truth is, when Limbaugh speaks, he attracts a crowd. Limbaugh's speech to the CPAC was televised Saturday afternoon by both Fox News and CNN. It was the highest-rated time period all weekend across the cable news networks.

According to Mediabistro:

--  Fox News viewership peaked with 2.73 million total viewers Saturday as Limbaugh spoke. Fox News' speech highlights, which aired at 9 p.m. ET, drew in an aditional 1.66 million viewers.

--  CNN gained 932,000 total viewers for their Limbaugh coverage.

--  In contrast, MSNBC stayed with their documentary programming during the same time, and averaged only 374,000 total viewers.

Results of 2009 CPAC Presidential Straw Poll

CPAC tends to draw a younger crowd of student GOP activists. Each year, participants hold a straw poll for presidential preference within their party.

For the third year in a row, Mitt Romney won the poll with 20 percent of the vote. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal finished with 14 percent, edging out Ron Paul and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin who each received 13 percent.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich received 10 percent of the vote. Others included were Mike Huckabee with 7 percent, Mark Sanford with 4 percent, Rudy Giulani 3 percent and Charlie Crist at 1 percent. Nine percent of those responding said they were undecided.

A little over half of those polled said they were satisifed with the potential GOP candidates for 2012. Forty-four percent said they wish the Republican Party has a better field of candidates.

Almost two-thirds of respondents were between the ages of 18 and 25.

Sources: Associated Press, Mediabistro, CPAC

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