Rush Limbaugh Diatribe Hurting GOP Candidates in 2012 Elections?

Rush Limbaugh's diatribe with media, critics, and women's advocates could be hurting Republican election chances- perhaps irreparably.

Limbaugh's continued diatribe attacking Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke cost him a lot. After describing her as a "slut" and a "prostitute" for her belief that the government should make private insurance pay for contraception, the resulting backlash cost him a whopping 34 advertisers during his 3-hour broadcast.

It may be costing GOP presidential hopefuls a lot more, though.

In response to Limbaugh's comments and subsequent apology- after slamming Fluke for three straight days on-air, he apologized via a website statement Saturday- reporters were quick to find out Republican presidential candidates' responses.

Romney took the least risky approach, timidly suggesting "it's not the language I would have used."

Newt Gingrich was roundly criticized for citing gas prices, the deficit, unemployment numbers, saying he was "astonished" that the media "[decided] that Rush Limbaugh is the great national crisis of this week."

Later, the Georgian former Speaker of the House called Limbaugh's apology "appropriate."

Santorum, though admittedly calling the radio host "absurd," then allowed that "an entertainer can be absurd"- a far cry from Ron Paul, who didn't think Rush Limbaugh was even really sorry.

Several media publications disapproved of the candidates' statements, which showed a lack of willingness to distance themselves from Limbaugh.

"I think Mitt Romney missed a huge opportunity to show some strength, basically take on Rush Limbaugh, say this is not the kind of thing we want in our political discourse," GOP strategist Matthew Dowd said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Eugene Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and commentator for MSNBC, suggested that the GOP candidates in general could be hurt by women voters, some of whom support Fluke's stance on contraception.

"Women constitute a majority of voters," Robinson wrote. "If the GOP is perceived to endorse Limbaugh's hateful rhetoric about 'feminazis' and his stance on male grievance, female voters could turn what looked like a winnable election for Republicans into a debacle."