Republican Leadership Conference 2011: Haley Barbour Warns GOP To Ditch 'Purity' And Unite

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Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour appealed to Republicans on Friday to put aside their ideological differences and rally around whichever candidate eventually wins the GOP nomination for president.

"We are not going to have a perfect candidate," Barbour told the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, according to CNN. "There has only been one perfect person that has ever walked on this earth and there's not going to be one who runs for president in 2012."

Barbour urged Republicans not to “get hung up on purity.” Doing so, he said, would simply help President Barack Obama's chances of re-election. "In politics, purity is a loser," Barbour said.

Barbour may be right to worry about the ideological rifts within the Republican party. HuffPost's Jon Ward reported this week on the rifts within the Tea Party over the prospective 2012 GOP nominees.

Some want unity against Obama; others want purity of political philosophy.

Those two positions will continue to compete, especially if former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wins the Republican primary.

Romney's current status as front-runner in the primary is causing unease for conservatives who think President Obama must be defeated in 2012, but who are also decidedly not excited about Romney.

The health care plan Romney created for Massachusetts is a heresy to many conservatives. They see that state's mandate to buy health insurance as proof that Romney is a big government technocrat who does not share their ideals.

For those that believe government is too big and too intrusive, Romney is not the candidate who would do enough to reverse its decades-old trend.

Barbour is just one of the prominent speakers appearing this week at the Republican Leadership Conference. As the AP reports:

No fewer than five GOP hopefuls were appearing at the four-day Republican Leadership Conference, planning to introduce themselves to activists, operatives and donors who have not yet rallied behind a candidate in the volatile primary race. And from the early moments, it was clear any criticism of Obama would earn applause.

"He is a national secular European socialist. He believes in the government," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose campaign imploded last week when his top advisers resigned. In one of the first speeches since the shakeup, he entered and exited to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing."

"He is the opposite of freedom," Gingrich said of Obama during a sprawling, 41-minute speech.

Among others planning to speak from the growing presidential field: Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who announced her candidacy Monday. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is officially getting in the race Tuesday, scrapped his planned appearance Friday because of what his aides said was an illness. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is mulling a bid, is on tap for Saturday.