When he was running to become national Republican chairman, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele had to fight perceptions on the right that he was a little squishy, i.e. not sufficiently conservative for the job.
Maybe that won't be such a problem now. Steele said in a Fox News interview Monday that he would be open to supporting primary challengers to Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, the three Republican senators who crossed the aisle to vote for President Obama's stimulus legislation.
Specter is the only one of the group who is up for reelection next year. Conservatives have ripped the three for betraying Republican principles in voting for what they consider a pork-swollen bill that has too few economy-spurring tax cuts and will do little to create jobs. Pennsylvania critics on the right have vowed to finance a challenge to Specter in next spring's primary, though no candidate has yet stepped forward.
"My retribution is the retribution of the voters in their states," Steele said on Fox's Your World with Neil Cavuto Monday. "They're going to have to go through a primary in which they're going to have to explain to those Republican voters in that primary their vote." He said he would "follow the lead" of the state parties; if leaders in Maine and Pennsylvania want a primary, Steele will put the resources of the RNC behind such a bid.
This is, needless to say, an unusual stance for a party chairman, who usually supports incumbents wholeheartedly. (hat tip: Politico.)
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