One high-profile Republican strategist, who refused to be named in order to avoid inflaming the very segments of the party he wants to silence, said there is a deliberate effort by party leaders to “marginalize the cranks, haters and bigots — there’s a lot of underbrush that has to be cleaned out.”

For establishment Republicans, this is all about survival, after two straight elections that saw extremely conservative candidates blow Senate races Republicans should have won. For Fox, it’s about credibility: The cable network, while still easily the top-ranked in news, has seen its ratings dip since the election, in part, conservatives tell us, because a lot of Republicans felt duped by the coverage…

But a senior Republican operative said the party has two huge, unresolved impediments to the top leaders’ grand plans: “suicide conservatives, who would rather lose elections than win seats with moderates,” and the “many groups on the hard right that depend on direct mail fundraising that requires a high degree of audacity, and borderline shrillness.”