updated 5/20/2009 5:56:25 PM ET 2009-05-20T21:56:25

Republicans on Wednesday abandoned an effort to label their opponents the "Democrat Socialist Party," ending a fight within the GOP ranks that reflected the divide between those who want a more centrist message and those seeking a more aggressive, conservative voice.

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Two Republican National Committee members who backed a resolution to ask the Democratic Party to change its name said supporters agreed to changing the measure's language to urge Americans to oppose what the GOP is calling the Democrats' "socialist" agenda.

The name-changing resolution supported by Jim Bopp of Indiana and David Norcross of New Jersey had drawn criticism from GOP Chairman Michael Steele. Other party leaders called the move "stupid" and "absurd," saying it made Republicans look petty during a troubling time for the nation.

The Democratic National Committee said the proposal reflected a political party so devoid of ideas that it was resorting to "name calling" and "petty politics."

Bopp and Norcross dismissed the criticism Wednesday and said the publicity generated by the proposal was good for the GOP.

"It has generated the debate we had hoped for," Bopp said. "It was an effort to educate the American people, and it was successful."

Norcross said it was a bid to raise awareness of the Democratic agenda so that Americans can be "properly fearful."

Republicans were slated to vote on the "socialist" resolution and other measures late Wednesday afternoon.

At one point during informal discussions of the name change, those attending the meeting of state party leaders and other party officials said the proposed name might be "Nationalist Socialist Democrat Party." However, including the word "Nationalist" was not formally proposed.

Republicans are trying to chart a new course after election losses in 2006 and 2008 that left them out of power in the White House, Congress and statehouses across the country.

Without a successor to former President George W. Bush, the party is in the midst of an intense debate over its identity and facing an emboldened Democratic Party that's grown larger and stronger under President Barack Obama's leadership.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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