(CBS News) Has "moderate" become a dirty word?
That's the question Bob Schieffer asked Republican Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on Sunday's "Face the Nation" after showing a campaign ad run by a conservative group which called Texas Senate candidate David Dewhurst a "moderate." Dewhurst, who is Texas lieutenant governor, is up against Tea Party-backed Ted Cruz in a Republican run-off next month in the race to replace Hutchison, who is retiring from the Senate.
"I think it has," Hutchison said in response to the question. "People have called me a moderate. I've always been a conservative, David Dewhurst is certainly a conservative, and he and the governor have done all of the work in the legislature in a conservative way, and the governor is very conservative in supporting David Dewhurst as well. I think you can differ on issues of course, but making a moderate seem like a liberal when you're really conservative I think is kind of a misstatement."
Hutchison was part of a panel with former Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Washington Post
columnist Michael Gerson and longtime Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, who all weighed in on the question as well.
Gerson said he does think it's a problem that moderation is something that people don't want to be known as.
"For a national presidential election, you have to run towards the center. There's no question that Mitt Romney will have to do that," said Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. "And to govern in Washington, you're going to have to make agreements on entitlements and other things, this requires both parties. So using that as an epithet... actually undermines our political system and making it work."
Shrum, who was John Kerry's chief strategist during his 2004 presidential run, said the ad was a sign of the Republican party moving to the right.
"I think the Republican party has moved very far to the right. I think there's not a lot of room for folks who would make compromise," he said. "I think we have a very polarized country, very different from the Senate that I worked in years ago when you'd see people like Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch, who probably doesn't want me to remind the voters of Utah about this, working together to ensure children's health all over this country. Kay Bailey Hutchison has worked with John Kerry on infrastructure. I mean this is a tradition that is dying, and it is dying to the detriment of the country."
Rendell added: "I think labels don't matter -- conservative, moderate. Kay Bailey Hutchison is a conservative, but she understands that we've got to rebuild our infrastructure or we're going to fall apart and fall behind economically. So she's willing to invest in repairing that infrastructure. I don't care whether her label is conservative or moderate, it's the right thing. It's smart policy."
Watch the rest of the panel's discussion on the 2012 presidential campaign in the video above.