Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told activists they shouldn't "get hung up on purity" when picking a Republican presidential nominee in a at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans Friday. Barbour, who dropped out of the primary race last month, said, "In politics, purity is a loser. Unity wins elections."
Last month a poll showed that more than half of Republicans would like to see a third party candidate, which the governor said would be a gift to Democrats. "The left is dying for the Tea Party or the whatever party to become a third party," Barbour said.
Several 2012 contenders are attending the conference: seen as flawed by many voters--those attending the conference include Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, and Buddy Roemer. Frontrunner Mitt Romney didn't go, and neither than Tim Pawlenty, the frontrunner to be the Romney Alternative. Jon Huntsman is out sick.
Agence France Presse's Olivier Knox says Barbour got "easily the warmest reception" at the conference. And The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny, noting the contrast between Barbour's and Gingrich's speeches, wonders, "Does anyone wish [Barbour] was still in race?