Beck stresses that he's a libertarian, not a Republican partisan, and prides himself on skewering politicians of every stripe. ("The Washington power elite makes me want to vomit," he said on a recent show.) But he has been particularly forceful in condemning Obama, whom he calls "breathtakingly brilliant" in his ability to overwhelm the opposition. In Beck's new studio, the host hung a Mao-style poster of Obama that had been sent in by a viewer. It mockingly says: "We will fulfill all that our leader desires!"
"Did anybody watch the speech last night and have blood just shooting right out of your eyes?" Beck asked on the air last week after Obama's address to Congress.
Driving his rhetoric is a sense of urgency about the path the nation is taking.
"If I told you what I really believe was going to come -- I've made people cry," he said in an interview. "I think we're headed for real trouble.
"You've never met anybody who wants to be wrong more than I do," Beck added. "I have nothing to gain and everything to lose. If I'm right, what do I have? I don't grow my business. I have no reason to say these things."
Perhaps not, but Beck's grim prognosis has helped him find an instant fan base on Fox News, where he is getting more than five times the viewership that he had on HLN last year.
Shortly before airtime Monday, the 45-year-old host bounced on his feet in the chilly studio, quickly racing through the show's opening on a teleprompter. Suddenly, he stopped short.
"We still have 90 seconds -- why don't you tell me about last night's ratings?" he said to his producer in the control room upstairs.
The word came back through his earpiece: 2.2 million viewers, more than CNN, MSNBC and HLN combined at that hour. A grin spread across Beck's face.
"Wow, we're closing in on O'Reilly!" he exclaimed jovially. "I'm coming for him!"