Rahm Emanuel: If Romney ‘can't stand up to Rush,’ he won’t ‘stand up to Russia’

"Take a look at the fortitude and the strength and the determination and the vision that the president [displayed bailing out] the auto industry and juxtapose it to Mitt Romney, who doesn’t have the fortitude, the strength or the character, in my view, to stand up to Rush Limbaugh," Emanuel said.

The comments come just ahead of the Illinois Republican primary on March 20.

"I thought what Rush Limbaugh said was — not only wrong, it was absolutely repulsive," he continued. "That said, if you can’t stand up to Rush, how are you gonna stand up to Russia?"

Earlier this month Limbaugh received strong condemnation from Democrats and some Republicans after calling Sandra Fluke, the law student, a "slut" after her congressional testimony in support of President Obama's birth-control mandate, which requires insurers for certain religious organizations to provide contraceptive care to employees.

After pressure from liberal groups led to sponsors leaving his program, Limbaugh apologized for the remarks.

When asked, earlier this month, about Limbaugh's "slut" remark, Romney said that was "not the language I would have used."

Emanuel's comments on national topics, such as Limbaugh's statements, are increasingly rare as he spends his time focused on his duties as mayor of Chicago.

In response, the Romney campaign said Obama's reelection campaign, through Emanuel, was trying to distract from discussion of the economy.

"The White House is dispatching its liberal allies to attack Governor Romney and distract from President Obama’s abysmal record," Romney spokesperson Ryan Williams said in a statement. "President Obama can’t run on his disastrous economic policies or the historic loss of middle class jobs that has occurred on his watch."

—This story was updated at 8:36 p.m.