And then there were five

AND THEN THERE WERE FIVE…. Last week, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R) of Kansas was asked whether Rush Limbaugh was the “de facto leader of the GOP.” Tiahrt rejected the idea out of hand, telling the Kansas City Star, “No, no, he’s just an entertainer.”

This is, of course, the one line elected Republican officials are not supposed to cross. Limbaugh is to be revered, not dismissed. It took a couple of days, but as Amanda Terkel noted, Tiahrt’s office is now anxious to let everyone know how much the congressman loves the right-wing blowhard.

Asked about the episode and resulting Web buzz, Tiahrt spokesman Sam Sackett said Tiahrt was not speaking negatively about Limbaugh but was trying to defend him against the suggestion that Limbaugh could be blamed for the GOP’s woes.

“The congressman believes Rush is a great leader of the conservative movement in America — not a party leader responsible for election losses,” Sackett told The Eagle editorial board. “Nothing the congressman said diminished the role Rush has played and continues to play in the conservative movement.”

For those keeping score at home, this is reversal #5 for Republicans who’ve been critical of Limbaugh recently. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) groveled for Rush’s forgiveness in late January, and Gov. Mark Sanford’s (R-S.C.) office quickly backpedaled after the governor said, “Anyone who wants [President Obama] to fail is an idiot.” RNC Chairman Michael Steele, of course, humiliated himself in early March, and a couple of weeks later, Jim Tedisco, the Republican candidate in the special election in New York’s 20th, felt compelled to backpedal after saying Limbaugh is “meaningless” to him.

That all five made mild, innocuous comments about the talk-show host is largely irrelevant. This isn’t about accuracy; it’s about making sure the blowhard and his followers are happy.

It’s also a reminder that arguably the three most prominent voices in Republican politics today are Limbaugh, Cheney, and Gingrich. It’s quite a motley crew they’ve put together.