Rush Limbaugh spoke to the Fox & Friends hosts this morning to discuss polling and the state of the race.  Rush argues that pollsters want to shape opinion rather than measuring it, especially media-sponsored polls.  Why?  To produce a steady drumbeat of pessimism for Republicans:

Transcript via TV Eyes:

STEVE DOOCY: let’s ask rush limbaugh. he’s out there somewhere in t.v. land.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: in the sunny climate of florida, good to be with you.

KILMEADE: congratulations on the 20 years a lot of people are saying the distance senator mccain is from senator obama is the same thing al gore was from governor bush at the time. do you see a lot of similarities there?

LIMBAUGH: i heard you talking about the polls just a minute ago with chris wallace. you know me. i have a more cynical view of people than the drive-by media. the drive-by media do these polls and whether it is a presidential poll or an opinion of the american people on anything, we all know these polls are used to shape opinion, not reflect it, but now we’re getting to the point where in all these pollsters have their credibility to be concerned about and they want to be right at the end of the day, and i think that’s why with a couple of exceptions you’re seeing a lot of polls tighten now, because the race is tight. it’s not over. nationally, of course, is one thing. you do have the battleground states to be concerned about. it’s not looking bad for mccain out there. i don’t think this is anywhere near over. there is an onslaught in the media to make it seem like this has been long ago over. i think the purpose of that is to suppress and depress republicans and their vote turnout.

CARLSON: so you talk about shaping voters’ minds and that’s something we were discussing earlier, what the polls actually do, because who wants to go out and vote for a loser, right?

LIMBAUGH: precisely. it’s — the media coverage of obama in this campaign, this is the most irresponsible journalistic exhibition i have seen in my life. i’m 57 years old. they’ve always been liberal and they’ve always been biased but i have never seen them in the tank like this, and i think the purpose of that, they’re doing two things. they know there is a new media out there and there is a competition and they are trying to show themselves they can still move public opinion and get the country they want. now they’re not even hiding the bias. they’re profoundly in the tank, and the purpose is, i think, to really depress people into thinking this is over, that mccain has no prayer.

DOOCY: when you talk about shaping opinion, historically, newspapers do it on the opinion page, well, today in the pages of “”the new york times”” the old gray lady, she is endorsing barack obama, the same day a poll comes out from the times where they have got barack obama up by 13 points. we have talked to pollsters that say you can effectively drive a poll toward the answer you want, the result you want, you think “”the new york times”” is doing something like that here?

LIMBAUGH: two things about the times. it’s classic that yesterday standard & poor’s officially proclaimed “”the new york times”” as junk on the day they endorsed the messiah, the lord barack obama the most merciful. number two, why is “”the new york times”” junk? why is their advertising revenue down? why is their pages down, their circulation down? it’s because they’re no longer “”the new york times””. they are the public relations department for the public relations department of the barack obama campaign and the democratic party.

KILMEADE: if john mccain was to have two themes in the final 11 days, what would they be?

LIMBAUGH: this is about the economy right now, guys. people do not care about the ancillary things about obama. it’s sad. i wish we could make them care about wright and william ayers. i think obama is the radical in this group. i think obama moved to chicago and found those people. he didn’t arrive as a waif and these people found him. he is a radical and he has a lot of bitterness about race in this country, but this is about the economy, and the thing that really frustrates me, you guys, is this economy is directly traceable to the democrat party. they can find a republican that is responsible for this, they would have strung him up and had him in congressional hearings for the last two months. this fannie mae and freddie mac thing is directly traceable to bill clinton and barney frank. mccain will not criticize democrats because he is afraid it will make independents mad. that’s maddening. the idea that independents get mad at partisanship on the republican side and defect to the most partisan, mean-spirited extremist democratic party in my lifetime is just absurd. if he can’t tie the democrats to this economic mass, because right now bush is being blamed for it, that means the republicans and it is a sitting duck, you guys. he could have done this a month ago, six weeks ago, but he just for some reason doesn’t want to go. he wants to go pop list and blame wall street greed, which is what obama’s doing, so big difference.

CARLSON: mccain gave an interview yesterday where he did pretty much president bush and try to distance himself. finally, during the third debate, he turned to barack obama and said i am not george bush. if you wanted to run against him, you should have run four years ago.

LIMBAUGH: gretchen, you keep mentioning things that frustrate me. there is no reason to run around yesterday and talk about how, you know, the bush administration goofed things up. that’s just agreeing with obama. obama is the opponent here, not george w. bush. mccain’s problem is consistency. when he finally named dodd and barney frank at one of these cam aign appearances in waukesha, wisconsin, everyone thought he was on message, and the next day he is dissing bush. he hasn’t been consistent. he has to get consistent. we can drag him across the finish line, guys. we can do this.

KILMEADE: rush, let’s go back to the new york times who has a big article about acorn. yeah, we told you we registered 1.3 million but that was exaggerated, closer to a half a million. it sounds like spin coming out of the new york times to explain, hey, a lot of people have been worried about voter fraud. don’t worry about it.

LIMBAUGH: of course they’re going to say don’t worry about democrat vote are fraud and they’re going to try to downplay this, but i think, look, my reaction to this is why does obama have cheat? if this is in the bag, why does he have to spend any more ad money? why does he have to go to the battleground states? if this is in the bag, why does this stuff have to happen? it is no, sir what it appears to be. there is a false reality being presented and people have got to get a grip.

DOOCY: congratulations on 20 years, rush.

LIMBAUGH: thanks, guys.

KILMEADE: rush limbaugh, thank you very much for joining us.

Rush nails two points solidly in this interview. First, McCain needs to abandon the Ayers line of attack right now, not because it’s somehow out of bounds, but because right now people just don’t care.  He has ten days to make his message resonate, and he has to speak to voter concerns.  Thankfully, that’s exactly what McCain has done, with ads on Joe the Plumber and hammering Obama on his tax-and-spend proclivities.  He’s also been given a gift from Joe the Gaffemaster on national security, and both McCain and Palin have made that a strong theme in the closing days.

On polls and pessimism, Rush is dead on target.  Those of us who watched the Star Tribune’s MinnPoll noticed this same dynamic every race.  It would run heavily towards the Democrats until the last two iterations, when suddenly the race “tightened”.  That’s why the Times and CBS (and others) publish polls with ridiculous gaps of 14 and 16 points in party identification — because most people won’t check the samples or the methodology.  They want to create a story line that generates pessimism in Republicans and depress turnout, which then makes the polls a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Without exception, polls “tighten” in the final days of an election.  Is that a true indication of voter loyalty transitioning — or just an attempt by pollsters to get their last polls close enough to claim better accuracy afterwards?