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Barbour: 'Purity is the enemy of victory'

After putting aside a potential bid to be the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is calling for unity in his party, warning that the search for a “pure” candidate could ultimately disappoint GOP voters and enable President Barack Obama’s re-election next year.

“We cannot expect our candidate to be pure,” Barbour told conservative activists Friday at the 2011 Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington D.C.  “Winning is about unity.”

Whoever the nominee may be at the end of the contested presidential primary, Barbour said, “I am not going to agree with him or her on everything. … You’re not going to agree with them on every single thing, either.”

Barbour’s remarks came the day after party infighting garnered headlines in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire, where perceived frontrunner Mitt Romney received fresh criticism from Republican political superstars Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani on the same day he officially jumped into the 2012 contest. 

Barbour issued a stern warning to conservative GOP voters Friday, reminding the attendees at the Ralph Reed-backed confab that, in politics, "purity is the enemy of victory."

“You gotta get [it] in your head right now," he instructed in his characteristic drawl, "'I’m going to fight for my person. When it’s over, I am going to support the person that’s going to beat Barack Obama.'”

Asked by reporters after his remarks what prompted the homily on party accord, Barbour said he has consistently counseled against hard-and-fast criteria for “perfect” candidates.

“And I don’t care if you nominate the most conservative candidate. There are going to be some people who don’t agree with them on everything,” he said. “That’s just a fact.”

He did not directly criticize Palin for taking swipes at Romney on the day of his announcement, saying only that “the campaign will be about issues.”

Rep. Michele Bachman (R-MN), another likely presidential candidate who has recently delivered some intraparty jabs, also declined to comment on Palin’s hectic summer-vacation-turned-political-bonanza bus tour this week when she was hoarded by reporters after her address to the conference.

And Bachmann didn't take an opportunity to repeat her criticism of fellow Minnesota Republican Tim Pawlenty, whom she called out yesterday for his previous openness to government insurance mandates.

Asked if past support for the individual mandate is an automatic disqualifier for GOP candidates like Pawlenty and Romney, Bachmann said she rejects the mandate as unconstitutional, but that "the voters will make that decision."