TOUGH TALK FROM ANONYMOUS REPUBLICANS…. National Journal routinely polls a panel of “political insiders” to gauge the establishment’s take on various issues. This week’s question was a good one: “Has Dick Cheney helped or hurt the Republican Party since leaving office?”

Among Democrats, it wasn’t close — out of 103 insiders, 92% believed Cheney is hurting the GOP. Among Republicans, it was far less clear, but a majority (57%) agreed that the former vice president is doing more harm than good for his party.

But notice some of the quotes Republican insiders gave to National Journal:

“The message on interrogation techniques is right. The messenger is not.”

“He seems determined to vindicate his decisions and policies even if it damages the GOP’s recovery. And it has.”

“Anything that reminds the public of the Bush administration harms the party’s ability to turn the page. If he’d had any concern for his public image when he was in office, he wouldn’t have to worry as much about defending his reputation now.”

“There is nothing Dick Cheney can say or do to help the Republican Party today. The best thing he can do is disappear for the next 10 years.”

“Overall, hurts, but if there is a terrorist attack on the United States, Lord forbid, he will have turned out to be prescient, and the Democrats will be out of power for a long time.”

“Let’s face it: The guy doesn’t know anything about winning elections outside of Wyoming.”

“Not even a close call. With Cheney out there, Obama doesn’t even need to remind the American people about the mess that was the Bush years.”

“He’s advocating for what’s left of the party. We need to expand the party.”

“Cheney represents the grumpy intolerance that has come to characterize the GOP. Get off the stage!”

That’s real tough talk from a group of Republicans who know their anonymity will be protected.

It gets back to what we talked about yesterday: most of the party is anxious to see Cheney go away, but they’re still afraid to say so. The GOP doesn’t like Cheney, but it does fear him.

Maybe the former vice president put together embarrassing dossiers on everyone he could think of during his time in office? Sure, it seems unlikely, but let’s not hastily rule anything out.

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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.