The Republican National Committee, pressed to find a way to more clearly distinguish itself from Democrats, on Friday adopted a rule that will prod GOP leaders to provide financial support to only those candidates who support the party's platform.
The resolution, enacted by voice vote with no opposition at the party's winter meeting here, is an alternative to a more stringent proposal that would have required GOP candidates to support 10 policy positions if they wanted party help.
That proposal, sponsored by Indiana RNC member James Bopp and backed by the RNC's more conservative members, was strongly opposed by party Chairman Michael Steele and a group of state party chairs.
The alternative, offered by RNC member Bill Crocker of Texas, does not contain a specific litmus test and thus grants party officials more flexibility in how to vet GOP candidates seeking party support.
It urges leaders of local, state and national Republican parties to "carefully screen" the voting record and positions of Republican candidates that want party backing, and determine whether they "wholeheartedly support the core principles and positions" of the party as laid out in its platform.
The platform is adopted every four years at the party's presidential nomination convention.
The new rule will not prevent support for moderate Republican candidates but will bar funding for those judged to be too far to the left, Crocker said.
"No more Scozzafavas, please. No more Specters, please. No more Chafees, please," Crocker said, referring to Dede Scozzafava, a GOP candidate for a U.S. House seat in New York whom conservatives opposed; U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, who switched his party registration from Republican to Democrat last year, and former U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a liberal Republican.
Crocker urged the party to "present candidates who will be attractive" to the people who, like those in the Tea Party movement, "are really dissatisfied with our political conduct over the past several years."
Bopp withdrew his proposal and supported the alternative, contending it will be more effective because party leaders will have to consider a broader range of issues than just those cited in his resolution.
His proposal would have barred financial help for GOP candidates who disagreed with three or more of 10 policy positions, including support for "market-based" health care reform and climate change policies, and opposition to gun control, government abortion funding and amnesty for illegal immigrants.
There appeared to be some disagreement over the practical effect of Crocker's resolution. Bopp said it requires party leaders to compare GOP candidate positions to the party platform. But Bob Tiernan, the GOP state chairman in Oregon, insisted it is not binding.
"There's nothing mandatory in it," Tiernan said.
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