WASHINGTON — Republican moderates say they are forming a national group to move their party "back to its mainstream" and end its focus on divisive issues such as abortion and homosexuality.
"Our purpose is to exclude issues of morality and conscience as litmus tests of being a Republican," says Rep.Tom Campbell of California, director of the new Republican Majority Coalition. "We are inclusive. We are not exclusive."
Mr. Campbell did not seek reelection to his House of Representatives seat so he could run for the Senate. He was defeated in the Senate primary election by a more conservative Republican, who in turn lost in November to Democrat Barbara Boxer.
Founders of the new political action committee, including four senators, announced earlier this week in Washington that they will work to highlight economics, foreign policy, and the role of government - winning Republican issues in past elections.
The direction of the party has been unclear since President Bush's defeat, with different wings arguing over how the election was lost.
The right wing and evangelical Christians maintain the socially conservative Republican platform and convention were strong points of Bush's campaign.
But social moderates and fiscal conservatives say that an anti-abortion, anti-homosexual focus drove away women, suburbanites, and others who ordinarily might have voted Republican.
Leading Republican moderates were on hand to announce the new committee, including retiring New Hampshire Sen. Warren Rudman and Sens. Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas, John Chafee of Rhode Island, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
Their new coalition is modeled on the Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist group that served as a launching pad for President-elect Clinton's successful campaign and provided one of its main themes - that Democrats needed to abandon leftist and liberal orthodoxies.
"They didn't divide, they expanded" the party by capturing moderates without losing liberals, said Republican strategist Roger Stone. "That's what we want to do - move our party back to its mainstream."