Commentary: The GOP's family feud and purity tests

Much of what Ronald Reagan said remains gospel in GOP-rich Kansas. But the scramble over the state’s four openings in Congress next year already has laid waste to Reagan's 11th Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican."

It's striking to see so much internal strife in the party so soon, with candidates trying to outdo one another with big-name conservative endorsements and blistering criticisms of President Obama and congressional Democrats. The August primaries for Kansas' congressional seats could end up exemplifying the national Republican Party's family feud — which has the Republican National Committee debating whether to gauge candidates against a 10-item checklist of conservative principles.

The most heat in Kansas is coming from the U.S. Senate campaign of Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, who is trying to define himself as more conservative than rival Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays. Because Kansas hasn't sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since the 1930s, whoever wins the GOP primary likely will replace Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who appears to have a clear path to the governorship.

Lagging Moran in polling and fundraising, the Tiahrt campaign recently made headlines by cracking wise about the fact that Moran's protrade legislation on Cuba has been praised by the Communist Party USA.

Last week Tiahrt authored a startling commentary in the Washington Times that attacked Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., not only for endorsing Moran and trying to have a moderating influence on the party but also for losing the 2008 presidential election and for much of what's happened in the nation since.

By briefly suspending his campaign and supporting the Bush administration's financial bailout, Tiahrt wrote, "the self-proclaimed 'foot soldier in the Reagan revolution' left the mission and meekly joined his opponent in supporting a reckless and unprecedented intrusion in the markets."

To read the complete editorial, visit The Wichita Eagle.