* Republican strategists worry the Rush Limbaugh “slut” mess could damage the GOP among independent women, a crucial swing constituency that this whole contraception fight (beyond Rush) is all about.

* The candidates react: Rick Santorum calls Limbaugh “absurd,” but softens it by calling Rush an “entertainer.” Mitt Romney walks away.

* Rachel Weiner gets Republicans to explain why they hung together against the birth control mandate: It was hugely important to the base. Still seems like this could make the issue more problematic, though...

* Think Progress has a running tally of companies suspending ads on Rush Limbaugh’s show in the wake of the “slut” controversy. Four and counting.

* Scott Brown: “Rush Limbaugh’s comments are reprehensible. He should apologize.” Was that so hard?

Key context: Brown is taking a hammering from Elizabeth Warren and national Dems for his embrace of the Blunt amendment, which has become central to the Massachusetts Senate race.

* George Will sounds the alarm: Neither Romney nor Santorum seem capable of building a coalition to get to 270, so it’s time to focus on the Senate and House races.

* Steve Benen’s Friday tally of Romney’s most ostentatious falsehoods of the week.

* Jared Bernstein on rising public sophistication about rising gas prices, and why that’s good news (and not just for Democrats).

* Relatedly, Kevin Drum ferrets out a nice find from the new Post/Pew poll on rising gas prices: “only 1% of Americans blame environmental restrictions on domestic drilling, despite a full-bore Republican campaign to convince them otherwise.”

* The Obama campaign launches a petition to force Americans Prosperity to reveal its donors, another sign it wants a sustained confrontation with the oil billionaire Kochs amid rising gas prices.

* The millions Scott Walker is spending on TV ads isn’t putting a dent in public perceptions of him, and it’s clear the Walker recall fight will continue to be as polarizing (locally and nationally) as ever.

* Joan McCarter on Steny Hoyer’s dispiriting pivot back to deficits and the mirage of “grand bargains.” CREDO is organizing against it.

* The first legal challenge to Obama’s recess appointments to the NLRB from an industry group gets tossed out of court, and it still remains to be seen whether Republicans will seriously contest them.

* And the chart of the day: Under Romney’s tax plan, the size of the cut in people’s effective tax rate is proportional to the size of their income.

What else?