Republican V. Republican: State-Level GOPers Jump Ship As Internal Divisions Roil The Party

 @pemalevy
on August 21 2013 1:51 PM
  • Rep. Steve King
    U.S. Representative Steve King speaks during the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition's Spring Event at Point of Grace Church in Waukee, Iowa March 7, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Frank
  • Tea Party Rally
    Some people don't seem concerned about the U.S. defaulting on its debts. Reuters
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Both political parties have to moderate between the right and left within their own ranks. But the internal divisions in the Republican Party right now are huge and on full display.

As conservatives like freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas push Republicans to force a government shutdown to defund the health care reform law, a former GOP strategist made headlines by coming out in support of ‘Obamacare.’ The Republican establishment wants to pass comprehensive immigration reform while the party's right flank is dead set against it.

Those tensions are playing out on the state level too. On Tuesday, state GOP leaders in Iowa and Maine walked away from their party, one because it was too far right, and the other because it wasn't conservative enough.

Chad Brown, the co-chairman of the Polk County Republican Party, said fellow Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King’s comments about DREAMers -- and the party’s response to the comments -- were part of the reason he decided to become an independent. Last month, King made waves when he accused some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children of being drug smugglers with “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” 

“No one’s really stood out to really fight him on those. I think they’re hateful statements,” Brown said

The Republican Party in Maine is facing defections for the opposite reason. Seven members of the State Republican Committee, including one voting member of the Republican National Committee, have stepped down because the party is too liberal. The defectors cited both Gov. Paul LePage, a tea party Republican, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as leading the party astray, the Portland Press Herald reported.

"(We) can no longer allow ourselves to be called nor enrolled as Republicans; we can no longer associate ourselves with a political party that goes out of its way to continually restrict our freedoms and liberties as well as reaching deeper and deeper into our wallets," the seven wrote in a letter Sunday, which was signed by five additional Republicans. "We instead choose the path that focuses on ways to help our fellow Mainers outside of party politics."

In both Maine and Iowa, the Republican state parties are filled with supporters of former Texas congressman Ron Paul and lean libertarian -- another current source of debate in the Republican Party as demonstrated, most recently, by a feud between libertarian Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and the more mainstream Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.

There are issues that turn Democrats against Democrats too. But right now, the Republican Party's post-2012 soul-searching seems to be just getting underway.

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