ABC News' Rick Klein reports:
As Republicans vent over the departure of Sen. Arlen Specter from their party, and as GOP leaders plot a new messaging strategy, an intriguing series of fissures is appearing inside the GOP.
As I explore HERE, there's a debate raging now about whether the Republican Party should be emphasizing breadth or depth -- in terms of ideology, messaging, and geography.
And it looks like there's something of a split inside party leadership over what kind of candidates the GOP is hoping to run in 2010 and beyond.
Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is suggesting that the party pursue moderates in blue and battleground states. He told The New York Times' Adam Nagourney that he was impressed by the recruiting efforts in the past two election cycles of Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who picked up seats in red states with relatively conservative candidates.
Cornyn, a conservative Republican from Texas, shoots this across the bow of party activists who are clamoring for purity: "Some conservatives would rather lose than be seen as compromising on what they regard as inviolable principles."
In that same vein, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, another conservative Republican, told us on ABCNews.com's "Top Line" yesterday: "This is not a time to purify; it's a time to multiply."
Then there's Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. Steele is leaving significantly less party wiggle room.
"I'm not going to stand at the door with a little checklist and say, well, you can be a Republican and you can't," Steele told NPR Wednesday. "But understand, it's like -- you know, when I come to your house for dinner, all right, and I sit down at your table, what do you think of me when I look at your wife or look at you and go, you know, 'This is a nice meal but I would have preferred chicken. And if you could take this plate off, I think I'd like a different type of china.' It is what you serve."
Steele is speaking to an important segment of the party base. Cornyn and company, meanwhile, are coming from the perspective of actual lawmakers, where numbers trump ideology.
This debate hits at a time where Steele's leadership is being challenged from inside and outside the party.
What do you think? What's the best way forward for the GOP?