ABC News' Rick Klein reports: Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council last week broke with RNC Chairman Michael Steele by publicly urging conservatives to stop supporting the Republican National Committee.
Now, as Steele and Perkins both prepare to address the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Perkins has a new message for the RNC: Shape up, or risk seeing your supporters ship out and support Tea Party candidates instead.
“I think the Republicans have to realize they're not operating in a vacuum. Now, while Democrats may be in trouble coming into November's election, the Republicans are not the only game in town,” Perkins told us on ABC’s “Top Line” today.
“As we see the Tea Party movement taking on a life of its own, the Republicans have some competition, which I think is actually good for the conservative vote. And they're going to have to be responsible with how they spend their money, they're going to have to be I think very measured in their message, and that they are embracing a conservative message …. ”
“And they have to I think convince voters that they're back on the right track,” Perkins said. “And I don't think what we see coming out of the RNC at present is doing that.”
Perkins declined to call for Steele’s ouster -- “that’s not my problem,” he said -- but said he’d continue to tell conservatives that their money is best spent elsewhere than at Steele’s RNC.
“What I did a week ago was to tell our constituents out across the country -- who by the way are very engaged right now, they're a part of the tea party movements, they want to affect change. That means they're going to be voting in November; they're involved in campaigns.”
“I simply said look, you want to make a difference, I understand that. Let me give you a word of advice: One of the places you will be best served if you don't participate in, that's giving money to the RNC, because I don't believe they're expending it in a way that's judicious. And I don't think that the direction that they're taking the party is going to lead to the majority.”
We also checked in with Shira Toeplitz of Roll Call about the new partnership between Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., plus her take on the 2010 landscape.