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December 2, 2009

Steele speaks out against litmus tests

In his first comments on an effort to impose a conservative purity test on Republican candidates in the 2010 election, Republican National Chairman Michael Steele stressed the counter-productive nature of litmus tests.

At the same time, Steele attempted to play down the controversy, which has focused media attention on a topic guaranteed to produce negative publicity: another rift between moderate and conservative Republicans.

"Litmus tests as a rule are not good, and I think everybody in the party appreciates that," Steele said in an interview. "I don't think that that is an appropriate approach for us to take down the road."

Steele was quick to add that "I don't think that that's the intent" of the resolution's authors, even though that is how the effort is widely perceived.

He described the resolution, which surfaced last week, as "just a discussion among the members" of the Republican National Committee "that has now trickled out into the public."

Steele said it was "premature" to predict how he would deal with the measure, which is designed to be voted upon by the RNC at its winter meeting in Hawaii next month.

"Once I see what they're finally proposing, then I will weigh in on it," said Steele. He said that his staff at party headquarters in Washington is working with the resolution's sponsors, who include Jim Bopp, a Republican committeeman from Indiana.

Steele suggested that, ultimately, the measure might not even come to a vote. Last spring, facing a similar challenge from Bopp and other RNC conservatives, he succeeded in watering down a resolution that would have labeled the opposition as "the Democrat Socialist Party."

"This could, in the end, just be a discussion, or it could be a discussion around something that will be presented to the members in January," said Steele, declining to say how he intends to finesse the issue.

"I don't know. I don't know what it is yet," he said.

Bopp's resolution, as leaked to reporters last week, calls on the party to unite against "Obama’s socialist agenda" by requiring Republican candidates to abide by at least eight of 10 conservative policy principles. Those who don't would be denied endorsements and campaign funding from the RNC.

The idea has drawn the approval of some prominent conservatives, including former House Republican leader Dick Armey of Texas, who now heads a grassroots organization that is fighting Obama and the Democrats on health care and spending issues.

At the same time, it has prompted sharp criticism from other Republicans and conservative commentators. A fresh wave of unflattering news stories and analysis has highlighted tensions within a party that, polls show, suffered deep losses in public support in recent years.

Last spring, Steele survived an early, if trivial, test of his ability to lead the RNC when he derailed a proposed resolution, promoted by Bopp, that called on Democrats to relabel themselves as "the Democrat Socialist Party."

Steele, who openly opposed the idea, managed to limit the embarrassment, but not the predictable raft of negative press. When the RNC finally gathered at National Harbor, in Steele's P.G. County, Maryland, stomping grounds, it adopted a limp version of the original proposal, demanding that Democrats "stop pushing our country toward socialism."

Commenting on the latest episode within the 168-member RNC, Steele said in the interview that there are days when he thinks "okay, guys, don't be so independent."

"I like our members to be engaged. But I also want them to be engaged and focused on what their responsibilities are as members, which is, preparing for elections, grooming candidates, raising money, organizing on the ground," he continued.

"And if you're doing that and having this debate, I'm happy. If you're just having this debate and not doing that, then I'm not so happy."

Posted by Paul West at 12:45 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Comments

Having to yet see th epurity test, I can imagine it is much like the Independence Caucus test http://icaucus.ning.com

If questioning the Constitutional character of a candidate is not something that Mr. Steele would want ot happen, I can understand that being he appears to be a concervative Nationalist, not a Federalist Conservative. RINO's are on the conservative grassroots hit list, and Michael Steele has time and again displayed this character.

It is hoped that those who are incumbent will repent from the unconstitutional conduct DC has displayed over the past nearly 100 years, since the 1912 passage of the Federal reserve act.

Boy I hope Michael Steele remains the face of the Republican Party. He is an asset to the Democrats..

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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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