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Speaking at the Faith & Freedom Conference in Washington, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour warned Republican voters on Friday that they could not afford to apply strict purity tests to their presidential candidates, many of whom have raised hackles in conservative circles for various departures from the party line. Wading into very dangerous waters, he told reporters that even increasing taxes -- the ultimate Republican heresy -- should not be a dealbreaker.

Speaking at the Faith & Freedom Conference in Washington, Barbour told the audience of social conservatives that they "can't expert [the nominee] to be pure."

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As the Weinergate Twitter scandal continued to drag on, Jon Stewart had no choice but to send up the whole thing with a soulful song Thursday night.

Stewart was at first conflicted over whether to cover the controversy at all. Two animated characters, News Angel Tom Brokaw and Comedy Devil Don Rickles, appeared on his shoulders and tried to convince him what to do, with Brokow intoning, "facts, truth and judgment," and Rickles shouting, "Weiner's weiner!"

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House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) warned at Friday's Faith and Freedom Conference that the government needed to remove itself from the free market.

In a well-received speech, he offered his prescription for recovery: "Pay off the debt, keep our tax rates low and stable and predictable, stop picking winners and losers in Washington through the regulatory system, and get the system under control so we can flourish."

The line about picking winners and losers is a bit bold coming from one of the few Republicans who voted for the two most critical recent government interventions in the free market: TARP and the auto bailout.

Ryan recently defended TARP as a necessary measure to prevent an economic collapse in a major speech on his budget. His vote on the auto bailout comes up less often, but he told The Daily Beast in 2010 that he believed President Obama would have used TARP funds with less Congressional oversight to rescue the industry if the bill had not passed.

If Mitt Romney was looking for huge headlines from his Thursday campaign launch in New Hampshire...well, he might have reason to be a bit disappointed.

Friday's front page of the New Hampshire Union Leader, the state's largest newspaper, has Romney's launch seriously overshadowed by two other events: The death of former Gov. Walter Peterson (R) -- and Sarah Palin's tour of the state. The latter was given the banner headline just above the fold, "Palin Hits The Seacoast," plus a large photo of Palin and her daughter Piper.

By comparison, Romney's kickoff was reduced to a mere inset photo within text of the Palin piece, and a small headline, "Romney Announces."

The caption text: "INSIDE: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announces his presidential candidacy Thursday in Stratham. Story, Page A3."

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Paul Ryan was chased by a protester waving a giant Bible and decrying libertarian author Ayn Rand on his way out of the Faith and Freedom Conference, a social conservative gathering in DC where he delivered a speech on his budget.

"Why did you choose to model your budget on the extreme ideology of Ayn Rand rather than the faith of economic justice in the Bible?" the blond, 20-something male asked. He said he wanted to "present" Ryan with a Bible to teach him how to help the "most vulnerable."

Ryan talked to reporters briefly and signed autographs for fans, largely ignoring the protester.

The Congressman never mentioned Rand in his speech, who he has cited as a hero in the past, but did discuss his faith and its connection to American government.

"Our rights our not given to us from government, our rights are given to us naturally, given by God," he said, adding that "applying these principles" is what keeps America from entering decline each generation.

Ralph Reed just kicked off the Faith and Freedom Conference in DC with a rousing speech that didn't mention this morning's job numbers or much about the economy at all.

Such is the stuff of FFC, where the focus is on faith and social conservatism. Reed called the event an "NFL mini-camp" for conservatives, where the focus will be on boosting turnout among the social right. Reed pushed breakout sessions focused on reaching out to "non-traditional conservatives" in the Latino, Asian American, African American and Indian American communities.

It will be the faith community, Reed said, that will seal the fate of President Obama and the Democrats next fall.

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