WaPo – GOP split over conservative “purity” litmus test

HONOLULU — Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele said Wednesday that he opposes a controversial “purity” resolution that would keep party money from candidates deemed to be too moderate, all but ensuring the defeat of a proposal that divided GOP leaders as they opened their four-day winter meeting here Wednesday.

The proposal, introduced by some of the RNC’s more conservative members, would require that candidates publicly state their agreement with at least eight of 10 listed conservative positions — ranging from taxes and immigration to same-sex marriage and gun control — or lose party funding and support. Although Steele has not seen the final text of the resolution, named after the late president Ronald Reagan, he is siding with some two dozen state party chairmen who voted unanimously Wednesday to oppose it.

“Litmus tests don’t work,” Steele told reporters. “They don’t build parties, they don’t build relationships, they can be divisive.” He went on to call the proposal a “slippery slope.”

“We need to stick to our conservative principles without telling folks in the Massachusetts GOP that their choice for a U.S. Senate nominee cannot receive funding because of some litmus test,” said Henry Barbour, a conservative RNC member and nephew of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R).

Gentry Collins, the RNC’s political director, told reporters Wednesday: “Tea-party voters have a home in the Republican Party. We’ve given them a viable outlet for their energy and, candidly, they’ve helped us win.”