Moderate Republicans Revive Republican Leadership Council

Moderate Republicans said Tuesday they are reviving a group aimed at winning over the political center that deserted the GOP in the 2006 midterm elections.

The Republican Leadership Council was founded in 1993 to expand the party's base, but has not been active in campaigns since 2003. It's now attempting to recruit candidates who are fiscally conservative, but moderate on social issues.

Former Gov. Christie Whitman of New Jersey, former Sen. John Danforth of Missouri and former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele want to revitalize the RLC, which has a counterpart in the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. The RLC is being combined with Whitman's political action committee IMP-PAC — It's My Party, Too.

"After the losses in 2006, the reaction was overwhelming that we need to get the Republican Party back to its fiscally conservative roots," Whitman said, adding that the GOP needs to be "a little less judgmental."

Republicans lost control of the House and Senate in 2006 when voters rebelled over the war in Iraq and corruption in the GOP-controlled Congress.

Tom Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania and Homeland Security secretary, said "inclusiveness" will be an important theme.

"You don't have to agree with me all the time to be a good Republican," said Ridge, a board member.

The council will promote Republican candidates at the local, state and federal levels who favor low taxes, balanced budgets, strong national defense, protection of the environment, and less government interference in individual lives.