Steele to centrists: 'We'll come after you'

Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Michael Steele has a message for centrist Republicans: "we'll come after you."

When Steele was asked on ABC's "Top Line" webcast if it is acceptable for Republicans who support healthcare reform or the stimulus package to run in congressional races, he said "that's where the line gets a little bit tricky." 

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He said that supporting legislative items on the top of the Democratic agenda "goes against the core principle," adding that GOP candidates in moderate districts need to "walk carefully, because we'll come after you."

Though Steele did not target anyone by name, his comments come as Senate candidate and Republican Gov. Charlie Crist (Fla.) is coming under fire from conservatives for supporting the federal stimulus package that passed earlier this year. Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio is posing a primary challenge to Crist from the right and earned the endorsement of the conservative Club for Growth today.

Crist has since backed away from his support for the stimulus.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, however, has already backed Crist.

Steele said that the Republican Party is allying with the "tea party" protesters who are vehemently opposed to the Democratic agenda and have, at times, took aim at Republicans who they deem are too liberal. 

Republicans became deeply divided over two candidates in the New York special House election. Grassroots conservatives opposed Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava in favor of Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. Scozzafava ended up dropping out of the race, but Hoffman was defeated by Democrat Bill Owens.

"We're with them, were walking this walk with them," Steele said of the "tea partyers."

"I don't need you to identify as a Republican. I need you to identify as a conservative. We are the
conservative party."

Steele cited Republican wins in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races as examples of GOP unity needed to win in 2010.