Emboldened Republicans Still Face Hurdles

It's been five years since Republicans felt this good.

"There is no doubt, on the heels of Virginia and New Jersey last year, and now Massachusetts, there is a spring in the step of Republicans," said Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn.

Air America?s Ana Marie Cox breaks down today?s top political news.
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A Washington dominated by Democrats at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue hasn't just provided expanded health insurance for kids, hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to save the U.S. economy, or steps toward equitable treatment for women in the workplace. It has all also ushered in an opportunity for Republican resurgence.

It is against that backdrop that the 168 members of the Republican National Committee gather here in this luxurious beachside community for their annual winter meeting. In even-numbered years such as this one, this meeting serves as a launching pad for the leaders of the party apparatus to move into full campaign combat mode. (And, yes, it is lost on no one that Republicans are holding their meeting in Barack Obama's hometown.)

Air America?s Ana Marie Cox breaks down today?s top political news.
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However understandably jubilant the mood may be, committee members, party strategists, and activists are keenly aware of potentially harmful divisions that exist within Republican ranks and the need to put a few more of the building blocks in place (recruitment, fundraising, policy proposals) to get the GOP house in order and primed to seize the opportunity the 2010 political environment provides.

Party Successes May Mask GOP Rift

One intra-party rift has been on prominent display here as RNC members deal with the age-old tension for any party seeking to expand its electoral reach without compromising its principles.

A proposed resolution from a group of conservative members of the committee which would have required any RNC-endorsed and financially supported candidates to agree with at least eight out of 10 specific policy positions was never formally introduced after RNC Chairman Michael Steele made clear he did not want it to pass.

Steele was outspoken in his opposition to applying such litmus tests to candidates. He cited Sen.-elect Scott Brown's recent victory in Massachusetts as a key example of the need for Republican candidates to have the flexibility to take policy positions in line with the constituents they seek to serve and those are likely to vary from region to region.

James Bopp, Jr., a national committeeman from Indiana and author of the so-called "purity resolution," claims to have inspected Brown's voting record and issue positions and believes he would have been in accordance with at least eight of the planks, on issues from immigration and health care to gay marriage and abortion.

Bopp proposed a watered-down alternative resolution aimed at forging greater consensus among committee members. In his "accountability resolution" the RNC Chairman is "empowered to take into account a candidates' faithfulness to the Republican Party's conservative principles and public policies" before providing financial support or an endorsement for that candidate. The resolution goes on to require any candidate who endorses a Democrat in the current election cycle or a Democratic presidential candidate in the next presidential cycle to refund any contributions or coordinated expenditures to the RNC.

The "accountability resolution" was also not formally introduced in the resolutions committee.

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