ST. LOUIS — A rift appears to be growing between the new and veteran factions of the Missouri Republican Party.
Missouri Republican chairman Ed Martin sent an email this week chastising what he called the "old guard" for failing to embrace Sen. Rand Paul's recent filibuster on drones.
"The old guard of the GOP missed the significance of the event, which is a reminder that our party has a great deal yet to learn about leadership," Martin wrote.
He said that in his goals for the party, he was more like Paul, of Kentucky, and less like fellow Republican senators John McCain, of Arizona, and Lindsay Graham, of South Carolina.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that John Danforth, a leader in the party for decades and former three-term senator, responded with an email of his own to Martin on Thursday, a message that landed in the inboxes of leading Missouri Republican officials and financial supporters.
"I could not be more dismayed by the content and threatening tone of the attached newsletter about Senators Paul, McCain and Graham," Danforth wrote.
"What's the meaning of this?" Danforth, 72, asked. "This big tent Republican smells a purge in the air. Who else do you want to kick out of our party?"
He declined to comment specifically on the message to Martin.
Danforth's reaction suggests a further split in the party that began during the Senate primary season in 2012. Danforth was among moderates who sought to expand the field of hopefuls to run against incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill.
Todd Akin won the primary and was soundly defeated in the general election, in part because of comments he made about rape soon after winning the August primary.
Martin is a former chief of staff for former Gov. Matt Blunt. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress and, last year, for state attorney general. He is associated with the party's more conservative wing, and has promised aggressive leadership since taking over as GOP chairman in January.
Martin said he responded to Danforth in an email, but he declined to divulge the contents.
"You try your best to communicate a message, and if somebody finds it unhelpful, you have a conversation about it," he said.
As for the initial email, he said, "I aspire to be part of a party and a Republican who stands up like Rand Paul did. I think he showed incredible courage."
Paul's lengthy filibuster questioning the constitutionality of using drones to target American citizens won praise in some circles. But McCain and Graham were among those critical of the performance, with McCain calling it "ridiculous" to infer that the president would attempt to kill someone who disagreed with his policies.
Martin, in the email, called Paul's effort "a sharp contrast to the back-room dinner party attitude of certain establishment Republicans."
Martin told the Post-Dispatch that he regarded criticism of Paul as "negative and hurtful. I think when the country coalesces to watch and the party coalesces, the message to me is, 'Hey, let's be excited.'"