Huffpost Politics
Sam Stein Headshot

Jon Ensign Laments Republican Litmus Test

Posted: Updated:

Commenting in the wake of Senator Arlen Specter's defection and poll numbers showing dismal public identification with the Republican Party, Sen. Jon Ensign insisted on Sunday that the GOP had to drop its proverbial litmus tests on electoral candidates.

"Unfortunately, some people have wanted to have just all conservatives in the party, but if you want to be a national party and you want be a majority in Washington," the Nevada Republican and former chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee told "Fox News Sunday," "you have to welcome people who vote differently ... you have to respect each other's differences, not only regional differences, but also ideological differences."

"What we have not done a good job of, particularly in the Northeast, is recruiting the kind of candidates who can win," Ensign added.

The remarks come at a difficult time for Ensign and other GOP officials. Recent polls have showed only 20 to 21 percent of the country identifies with the Republican Party. And with the loss of Specter and the likelihood of Al Franken being seated in the Senate, there are few parliamentary maneuvers the GOP can rely on to affect legislation.

Around the same time as Ensign's appearance on "Fox News Sunday" aired, Specter himself was offering similar lament over the state of his former political party.

"Don't listen to the Club for Growth," the Pennsylvanian said on "Meet the Press," referencing the conservative organization that runs primary challengers to moderate Republicans. "That is a group that in a knowing way has defeated moderate Republicans ... because purity is more important than Republicans in office."

And yet, while Ensign found himself in agreement with his one-time colleague, he still pledged to beat his brains in during the upcoming 2010 elections.

"We want to make sure that Arlen Specter is no longer in the United States Senate after the next election," the Nevadan told Fox News.