Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told conservative activists Thursday that if the GOP wins control of the U.S. Senate this year, the party will aggressively pursue and enact conservative policies, but legendary conservative leader Richard Viguerie warns the track record suggests something very different.

McConnell and 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan were among the first speakers at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, near Washington, D.C.

“If I’m given the opportunity to lead the United States Senate next year, I won’t let you down,” McConnell said. “I will lead with integrity, we will fight tooth and nail for conservative reforms that put this country back on track, we will debate our ideas openly, we will vote without fear, and we will govern with the understanding that the future of this country depends on our success.”

But Viguerie doesn’t believe the promises.

“Well, that’ll be a first for him because his entire Senate life has been spent growing government, and that’s why we have a tea party today, because of the failure of the Republican leaders,” he said. “When they’re in power, they act like Democrats, except they grow government a little slower than the Democrats do.”

Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Richard Viguerie below:

Viguerie said it’s possible that McConnell could be a champion for conservative policies, but only if several more tea-party Republicans are elected to give the Republicans a majority again.

“The opportunity to save America and return America to limited government and constitutional government is in the primaries,” he said. “If we are fortunate in nominating and electing limited government constitutional conservatives this year, Mitch McConnell will be a far better Senate leader, providing he wins re-election, which is very much in doubt.”

For his part, Rep. Ryan told CPAC attendees he knows there’s an ideological rift in the party, but he said that’s good, so long as conservatives come together in campaigns and policy fights.

“You fight it out, you figure out what works, you come together, and you win,” Ryan said. “It’s messy, it’s noisy, and it’s a little bit uncomfortable, but the center of gravity is shifting.”

He also said conservatives cannot insist on 100 percent purity from every Republican on every issue, saying a party poised to win elections “doesn’t burn heretics; it wins coverts.”

In “Takeover: The 100-Year War for the Soul of the GOP and How Conservatives Can Finally Win It,” Richard Viguerie reveals how to establish limited-government constitutional conservatism as the governing philosophy of the Republican Party and bring sanity to Congress and the White House.

Viguerie said comments like those diminish the major divide that’s consumed the GOP for more than 100 years.

“I think he’s papering over a serious, serious problem. I’ve just written a book called ‘Takeover,’ which describes that we’ve been engaged in a 102-year-old civil war inside the Republican Party, which is the most important political battle in America today. It’s not between Republicans and Democrats. It’s inside the Republican Party, and it’s a serious disagreement over the role of government,” Viguerie said.

“Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are on the side of the big government, and constitutional conservatives have just [awakened] recently to realize their No. 1 opponent is not Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barack Obama, but it’s the big-government Republicans, and they’re in the way of conservatives governing America,” Viguerie said.

Paul Ryan is a big-government Republican? In 2012, Viguerie hailed Mitt Romney’s choice of Ryan as a running mate as a sign conservatives would have a place in Romney’s administration if he were to win. Viguerie said he’s seen a lot of change in Ryan.

“You wouldn’t want a better next-door neighbor or best friend. He’s just a wonderful human being, but he has been in Washington a long time now, and it seems like he’s signed on to the establishment,” he said. “You don’t get selected to leadership positions unless you play ball with the big-government types in Washington. So Ryan has been a disappointment to conservatives.

“We thought he would run a more aggressive, challenging, hard-hitting campaign in 2012, and he didn’t do that. Ever since then, he’s been going along with the expansion of government,” he said.

Viguerie believes conservatives have a good chance to add to their numbers, first in primaries against GOP senators he finds insufficiently conservative in states like Kentucky, South Carolina and Mississippi and in open seats like Nebraska, as well as many seats defended by Democrats.

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