STEELE TO MODERATES: ‘WE’LL COME AFTER YOU’…. Just yesterday, RNC Chairman Michael Steele was asked whether there’s room in the Republican Party for a moderate like Olympia Snowe. “Absolutely,” Steele said. “Welcome! Welcome! Because, you know why that’s important? Because every footprint of this party is different from region to region, from county to county.”

Just 24 hours later, Steele has apparently changed his mind.

Asked if he’d be comfortable with Republican candidates in 2010 who supported President Obama’s stimulus package, or his push to overhaul health care, Steele said:

“Well I’m gonna tell you honestly, that’s where the line gets a little bit tricky. And you saw in the House and in the Senate that there are ramifications, because that goes against a core principle. And trust me, you’re assuming that people want to have bloated debt, government expenditures and growth into their lives — they don’t. That’s a talking point out of the DNC.”

“People aren’t buying that. So candidates who live in moderate to slightly liberal districts have got to walk a little bit carefully here, because you do not want to put yourself in a position where you’re crossing that line on conservative principles, fiscal principles, because we’ll come after you,” Steele continued.

Steele wasn’t specific on who, exactly, “we” are, but since he was speaking as the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Steele presumably means the party itself will “come after” moderates who stray from the party line.

So, congratulations, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and Charlie Crist — you saw the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, you endorsed a proposal that prevented a wholesale economic collapse, and you were proven right. As a reward, your own political party is prepared to punish you.

Democrats are desperate to tell voters that moderates are no longer welcome in the Republican Party. Michael Steele seems anxious to help.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.