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Small Number of GOP Moderates Gauge Next Moves

Kwame Holman reports on a small group of Congressional GOP moderates as they craft their message and next moves during a difficult time for their party.

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    Finally tonight, there aren't many of them, but what's a moderate Republican to do? Congressional correspondent Kwame Holman has the story.


    According to a new poll, fewer Americans call themselves Republicans today than at any time in the last 25 years.

    Last week, the GOP suffered a high-profile defection when veteran Senate moderate Arlen Specter shocked official Washington by announcing he was leaving the Republican Party to run next year as a Democrat.


    When you take a look at the Pennsylvania Republican electorate, several hundred thousand Republicans shifted last year, and it has a bleak picture.


    Despite his incumbency, the longtime moderate Specter says he would have lost in next year's primary to a far more conservative challenger who had the support of some Senate Republicans.

    Specter's departure from the GOP has reignited the debate over whether the Republican Party has lost ground with the public because it has become too ideologically conservative and unwilling to listen to moderates in its ranks.

    Olympia Snowe of Maine, another Senate GOP moderate, says she was shocked and saddened by Specter's surprise defection, and she blamed her party in a New York Times op-ed the next day, saying, "In my view, the political environment that has made it inhospitable for a moderate Republican in Pennsylvania is a microcosm of a deeper, more pervasive problem that places our party in jeopardy nationwide."

    Snowe says the current conservative dominance of the GOP is not consistent with the ideologically diverse party that first elected her to Congress in 1978.


    We didn't question each other's credentials. We'd see — we were Republicans. We're under this one big umbrella. And what can we do to figure it out?

    But, obviously, if they have this litmus test, it's going to drive a number of people out. I think that is a losing strategy from all perspectives.