Beck, 46, dismisses these comparisons, citing their differences. Yet substitute Coughlin’s animus for Jews, communists and Franklin Roosevelt for Beck’s toward Muslims, socialists and Barack Obama and the similarities seem greater.

He can’t be written off merely as a Fox News bloviator. With his Aug. 28 rally, which attracted more than 100,000 people to celebrate faith and patriotism, Beck showed he has Coughlin- like drawing power. He has surpassed Rush Limbaugh and among the movement right in America is rivaled only by former vice- presidential candidate Sarah Palin. (The Beck-Palin duo, the dream presidential ticket for some right-wing blogs, reappears next week at a Sept. 11 commemoration in Alaska.)

Still, like Coughlin, who was ultimately silenced by public opinion and the Catholic Church, Beck brings so much baggage that he ultimately may hurt political causes or parties associated with him.