CHENEY’S FEARFUL GOP CRITICS…. Dan Balz has a report today on Republicans “wincing” in response to Dick Cheney’s public-relations offensive against the president. Many in the GOP seem to like the message, but not the messenger.

Another GOP strategist, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, pointed out the conundrum for Republicans over the former vice president’s current role. “Even if he’s right, he’s absolutely the wrong messenger,” this strategist said. His main worry, he added, is that Cheney keeps the public focused on the past, rather than the future. “We want Bush to be a very distant memory in the next election. The more Cheney is on the front burner, the more difficult it’s going to be.”

It seems like we’ve had quite a few of these reports lately — Cheney keeps presenting himself as the official Republican critic of the White House, and Republicans keep asking why the former vice president won’t go back to his undisclosed location.

But notice one key detail: none of Cheney’s GOP detractors are willing to go on the record. They want him to go away; they think he’s hurting their cause; they’re sure he’s making Democrats happy by becoming the face of the Republican Party, but not one wants to have his or her name associated with a discouraging word.

The party may not like Cheney, but for reasons that aren’t altogether clear, the party clearly fears Cheney. Until the GOP’s heavy-hitters get over this, the former vice president will continue to make them look bad.

Post Script: Balz’s piece includes several quotes from Liz Cheney, talking about how great her dad’s efforts are. Is that really necessary? I can appreciate the fact that the article is supposed to be “balanced” — Republican fans vs. Republican detractors — but was there any doubt as to what Liz Cheney would say about Dick Cheney?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.