NEW ORLEANS, June 18 (UPI) -- Republican activists at a conference in New Orleans responded to a fiery speech Saturday from Texas Gov. Rick Perry by chanting "Run, Rick, Run."
Perry, who has not said whether he plans to seek the party's presidential nomination next year, rejected talk of seeking the middle ground, The Washington Post reported. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, in a speech Friday aimed at defending former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, told the crowd "purity is a loser."
"It saddens me when sometimes my fellow Republicans duck and cover in the face of pressure from the left," Perry said. "Our party cannot be all things to all people. It can't be. Our loudest opponents on the left are never going to like us, so let's stop trying to curry favor with them." Party activists gathered in New Orleans for the Republican Leadership Conference focused on defeating President Obama next year.
The speakers Friday included a number of candidates -- among them Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and businessman Herman Cain -- who have enthusiastic bases but little chance of winning. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who recently lost his entire campaign staff, spoke Thursday.
Romney, the current runaway leader in the polls, was fundraising in Nevada.
Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, addressed one tricky issue Friday, the health insurance plan Romney developed in Massachusetts. The plan served as a model for the one Republicans now refer to as "Obamacare."
"I can tell you you're not going to agree with him or her on every issue," Barbour said, referring to the party's nominee next year. "Don't get hung up on purity. In politics, purity is a loser."
Brian Avenel of Mandeville, La., told the Post he is a veteran of the leadership conferences. He said he liked what he heard from Cain, the former head of Godfather's Pizza, but he said rhetoric is not the main factor.
"I want the best candidate to beat Obama," he said.