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GOP Purity Test Gets Mixed Grades, Even From Conservatives

Conservative activists in the Republican Party are pushing a proposal to deny funding to GOP candidates who fail what is being called a purity test, a move that is being met with skepticism by some Republican commentators.

The proposal, being pushed by 10 Republican National Committee members, calls for money to be withheld from candidates who disagree with more than two of 10 conservative principles.

The RNC will debate the idea at its winter meeting in January.

Among the principles on the test are support of limited government, market-based health care reform, legal immigration, gun rights and military-recommended troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan. The list also requires opposing Obama's domestic policies, including his $787 billion stimulus bill, climate change legislation and his signature health care reform plan.

The conservative activists' proposal reflects the growing tension within the Republican Party over its future and whether to attempt expanding by welcoming more diverse viewpoints or stick to its conservative principles at the risk of being marginalized.

Conservative commentator Erick Erickson wrote on his Red State blog that the proposal reminded him of an issue in a recent congressional race in upstate New York, where Republican moderate Dede Scozzafava gave up the race as pressure mounted for the party to support Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.

"While I applaud the desire of conservative RNC members to try to put the train back on the tracks, I am afraid this will do what the ATR pledge did in Scozzafava's case -- give a lot of candidates cover to pretend to be conservative," Erickson said, refering to a no-tax pledge sought by the group Americans for Tax Reform. (Hoffman signed it, but Scozzafava didn't.)

Erickson fears the so-called purity test will be meaningless.

"Conservatives in the RNC, however well meaning they may be, risk giving liberal candidates easy opportunities to get conservative endorsements simply by checking the box without ever meaning it," he wrote.

But Brad Blakeman, a senior staff member in the Bush administration, told Fox News that the purity test is a good idea.

"We have a big tent, but there are certain core values that Republicans need to sign onto in order to ensure that they are true Republicans," he said. "And I don't think there's anything on that list that I couldn't subscribe to as a Republican, and I would hope that the candidates who are running in the name of the Republican party could at least sign onto eight to 10 of them before running as a Republican."

Democratic consultant Peter Mirijanian, who served as an adviser to Bill Clinton's presidential campaigns, applauded the GOP purity test.

"I want to thank the RNC for the litmus test, anything that will keep moderates and independents from voting in the 2010 election for Republicans, I'm all in favor of," he told Fox News.

"The problem with this litmus test is it reinforces the image of party that's more interested in reinforcing its base than trying to solve big problems and bring others into the tent," he said. "The problem with the tent right now is everyone's crowded in the far right hand corner of it and there's no room for anyone with moderate views to enter."