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During a speech to College Republicans at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, GOP messaging guru — and the evil mastermind behind such go-to Republican terms as “death tax,” “job creator” and “illegal immigrant” — briefly went off the record to explain that conservative talk radio is destroying the establishment’s one hope for stopping the decline with Latino voters — Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL):

And they get great ratings, and they drive the message, and it’s really problematic. And this is not on the Democratic side. It’s only on the Republican side…[inaudible]. [Democrats have] got every other source of news on their side. And so that is a lot of what’s driving it. If you take—Marco Rubio’s getting his ass kicked. Who’s my Rubio fan here? We talked about it. He’s getting destroyed! By Mark Levin, by Rush Limbaugh, and a few others. He’s trying to find a legitimate, long-term effective solution to immigration that isn’t the traditional Republican approach, and talk radio is killing him. That’s what’s causing this thing underneath. And too many politicians in Washington are playing coy.

Mother Jones‘ David Corn received the recording of the comments from Aakash Abbi, a junior at Penn. The student said that Luntz was egged on to go off the record about the talk-radio giant.

“To me, a man whose career is built on being viewed as the ‘Master of Words’ should be willing to always stand by what he says,” Abbi told Corn. “If he can say it to a hundred-plus Penn students, the rest of America deserves to hear it.”

Limbaugh has previously accused Luntz of trying to “dumb down” the Republican message.

Talk radio, along with Breitbart, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin and The Daily Caller‘s Mickey Kaus, have been waging a war of words against what they see as “amnesty” in the comprehensive immigration reform bill Rubio created as part of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight.”

They’re even willing to brand Rubio with the dreaded slur, “RINO.”

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The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis has called these opponents of reform a “new sort of ‘Gang of Eight,'” since the opposition to reform seems to be limited to the extremes of the party. However, the base of the party — roiled by talk radio — defeated a similar bill in 2007.

And they may do it again if, even if the establishment recognizes that doing so may eventually lead to the end of the GOP competing as a national party.

Photo: @DaveWeigel via Twitter

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