“Mixing politics and the word ‘whorehouse’ never ends well,” said Omar Villafranca in NBC Dallas. So discovered Dave Carney, chief strategist to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, after he warned that efforts to moderate the GOP would make the party like a brothel. That sent local Republican women’s groups into a “tizzy,” notably supporters of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a GOP moderate who wants to open up the party, and who’s challenging Perry in 2010.

Perry’s campaign shot back that Carney’s “whorehouse” comment was not directed at Hutchison or the 2010 race, said Wayne Slater in The Dallas Morning News, but aimed at keeping the national GOP from becoming “Democrat-lite.” Maybe it’s just coincidental that Hutchison supports abortion rights and stem-cell research, while Perry and the state’s Republican base don’t.

Whether Carney was talking about the 2010 GOP primary or the national party “is almost irrelevant,” said David Mauro in Burnt Orange Report. “At this point, they go hand in hand.” The March primary is shaping up as the “battle royale for the heart and soul of the GOP,” and all we know so far is that neither moderates nor conservatives “will go down without a fight.”