'Doubtful' purity test will be used in determining candidates: source

At least 40 current Republican members of Congress would find themselves at odds with some part of the proposed "purity test" for Republican candidates, says an analysis at the ThinkProgress blog.

Blogger Lee Fang indicates that at least 40 sitting Republican members of Congress would face challenges passing the purity test, based on their voting records. Fang notes that various Republican senators and representatives have supported measures such as the stimulus package, a public health care option, cap-and-trade climate legislation and amnesty for illegal immigrants -- all no-nos under the purity test.

Raw Story reported on Tuesday that Republican National Committee member Jim Bopp's proposed questionnaire designed to test a candidate's "conservative credentials" is meant to avoid situations like the one that arose during the special election in New York's 23rd congressional district this year, when Republican bigwigs abandoned the moderate GOP candidate, Dede Scozzafava, in favor of the more right-wing Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman. Hoffman narrowly lost to Democrat Bill Owens.

While proponents of the "purity test" argue it would prevent the sort of situation seen this year in NY-23, critics of the GOP say it will result in the further marginalization of the Republican Party, as moderate candidates who can appeal to centrist voters will have a harder time winning nominations.

But thus far, it appears the proposal for "Reagan's Unity Principle for Support of Candidates," as the purity test is officially called, has resulted only in rancor within GOP ranks. Politico reports that the debate over the test -- and its public airing -- is "frustrating committee members and reopening old wounds within a party still recuperating from a bitterly divisive recent special election."

The proposed test has "unsettled the committee, with some members expressing annoyance at the semblance of a litmus test and others at the public airing of a sensitive internal conversation," Politico adds.

Eric Kleefeld at TalkingPointsMemo cites an unnamed GOP operative as saying that local campaign committees will probably ignore the purity test if it's enacted.

"The litmus test puts too little emphasis on people's most pressing concerns of spending and taxes and therefore cannot be considered an effective tool to fully judge a candidate," the operative reportedly said. "Because of this, its doubtful this will be a major factor in candidate support."

And even some hard-core right-wing Republican supporters have come out against the measure. Writing at the RedState blog, Erick Erickson argues that the purity test may not result in more conservative GOP candidates, because it would allow moderate candidates to appear to be conservative while campaigning, before voting as moderates once elected.

The purity test will "give a lot of candidates cover to pretend to be conservative," Erickson stated.