DNC Chairman Tim Kaine enters the Limbaugh-Steele fray and takes a few shots at both of them. The most interesting thing in watching all of this is that Limbaugh and Kaine Steele effectively played right into the Democrats’ hands. The Democrats are going to get a lot of political mileage and talking points out of this episode.

As for Steele, I don’t know how effective he’ll be as a national party leader from here on out. I mentioned in a previous post that there is no media or political figure on the right or left who has the kind of muscle or influence that Limbaugh and his listeners do. The only national GOP figures who have criticized Limbaugh and avoided apology so far are Rep. Eric Cantor and Gov. Jon Huntsman. But if this becomes some sort of ideological litmus test for any Republican who has hopes for national exposure, then it will make for a very interesting set of election cycles in 2010 and 2012.

Update: Some very good observations from Greg Sargent:

The problem for Steele, of course, is that by hitting Rush — and provoking a response from the talk show host — he’s left himself in the unenviable position of having to answer Rush’s implicit demand that he say whether he’s With Rush Or Against Him when it comes to Rush’s desire for Obama to fail. It’s not a good position to be in: Either Steele distances himself from Rush and angers the base, or he throws in his lot with the GOP’s pro-failure brigade and makes it easier for Dems to paint the GOP as petulant, partisan obstructionists.

Amusingly, either choice would help Rush: The first gives him a potent rallying point, and the second demonstrates his power over the party. What’s more, all this underscores again the astonishing degree to which the interests of Rush and Democrats are aligned here, since both Rush and Democrats want Steele, and every other Republican, to publicly make exactly the same choice.

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