Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour on Friday morning urged Republicans to unite behind whichever candidate emerges at the GOP nomination even if they don't agree with him or her on everything because defeating President Obama is too important.
"Purity," he told an audience at the Faith and Freedom Coalition, "is the enemy of victory."
"Conservatives, religious people, small government people: We are not going to have purity," said Barbour, one of a long list of speakers at the two-day conference in Washington. "We're not going to have a perfect candidate.
"There's only been one perfect person that walked on this Earth," he added, drawing laughs. "And there not going to be another in this election."
The comments from the former Republican National Committee chairman are an attempt to head-off complaints conservatives might have with the eventual nominee -- particularly if it's a more moderate candidate like Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman. He specifically warned that creating a third party would cripple any hopes of unseating the president in 2012.
The governor emphasized that those in the audience, himself included, aren't going to agree with the nominee on everything, but they'll agree with the Republican candidate much more than they will Obama.
"I'm going tell you something," he said. "Barack Obama has worn out two sets of knee pads down on his knees praying that conservatives will split up, that we'll have some third party candidate.
For Barbour, who passed on running for president earlier this year after hiring the beginnings of a campaign staff, it was something of an elder statesman moment. He apologized to the crowd for giving the "Dutch uncle" talk, but he said the worst thing anyone in the crowd would face would be looking in the mirror a day after Obama won re-election, knowing they could have done more to help the GOP nominee.
"I can't think of a worse experience than having to look at that face if that were to happen," he said.