Feb. 28, 2013— -- A growing split in the Republican Party deepened today when Clint Eastwood, the movie star who rocked the GOP convention by interviewing an invisible President Obama, joined the ranks of Republicans who are in favor of legalizing gay marriage.
The support for gay marriage by Eastwood and about 100 prominent Republicans, along with budding support within the party for immigration reform, is creating an obvious divide in the party. It pits moderate Republicans and party operatives on one side against conservative activists who drive turnout in the primary elections.
One of the four former Republican governors who signed the legal brief in favor of same sex marriage is ex-New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman who she says there are days she "absolutely" doesn't feel like part of the party because she says the GOP is being "defined by the talking heads and they don't for the most part represent me."
Another Republican who is taking on some conservative elements in the party is Carlos Gutierrez, the former commerce secretary under George W. Bush. Gutierrez announced last week he is forming a new super PAC "Republicans for Immigration Reform."
Gutierrez says there are House members who "understand we have to fix the problem" of immigration, but "the concern is they get primaried or have a primary challenger from the right who throws out the word amnesty, which is so easy to do."
"We will be very involved in the primary process for the House to give members cover…If they have a rival from the right screaming amnesty or a primary challenger from the right screaming amnesty, those are the people we want to cover, we want to support and if that means going after the challenger that is screaming amnesty we will do that," Gutierrez told ABC News.
Gutierrez says Mitt Romney's comments during the Republican primary that undocumented aliens should "self-deport" clearly hurt him and he was questioned about it well into the general election. When asked if the primary system, which is dominated by grassroots conservatives, is broken Gutierrez said yes calling it a "crazy system."
"To think in this day and age in 24 hour media coverage you can run and say far right policies and then for the national election sneak back in the center and nobody notices, you can't do that," Gutierrez said.