The Republican Rift

Boehner, House Leaders Speak To Press After Republican Conference Meeting

Robert Costa and Jonathan Strong report on the debate within the GOP House:

The leadership … is worried about the likely public takeaway from any shutdown: Leaders fear that national press would harp on Republicans’ supposed intransigence rather than the Senate’s responsibility. Boehner’s contingent seems almost resigned to the mutual suspicion between the leadership and a group of about 30 conservative members. Sources say distrust is as high as it’s been since Republicans won the House in 2010, and they predict that a sizable bloc would obstruct any watered-down plan.

That aura of Republican infighting will create an interesting dynamic if Tuesday morning comes without an accord. While Boehner and other leaders will be defending the GOP’s position in front of the cameras, there may be a subtle effort to use the episode — and what many expect to be its disastrous political results — as a means of discrediting the hardliners who give the speaker headaches. Conservatives, meanwhile, will try to show that the tactic is helping focus public attention on Obamacare.

Noam Scheiber expects the GOP to lose the shutdown because “unrelenting criticism from fellow Republicans and conservatives is inevitable in these episodes, and it is completely crippling”:

Some commentators have pointed to the fact that, in the weeks leading up to the likely shutdown, Republicans senators and pundits have already been scathing in their opposition to the Tea Partier strategy—Senate conservatives like Tom Coburn and Richard Burr, among others, have been deriding it as idiotic. If this didn’t dissuade the House Republicans, these commentators argue, it’s hard to imagine them being dissuaded post-shutdown.

To which the proper response is: Are you kidding? As 2011 showed, the pre-showdown and post-showdown worlds bear almost no resemblance to one another. Before the two parties plunge into an all-out confrontation, the story mostly resides inside-the-Beltway, followed primarily by well-informed, politically engaged voters. These are the people who would know that Republican Senators like Coburn and Burr (and their reliably anti-Tea Party colleagues, like John McCain and Bob Corker) have been critical of House conservatives. But once the battle is joined—once we’re officially into the payroll tax standoff or the shutdown—the media covers it breathlessly, and like a national story, not a political one. It leads the evening news (both national and local); it seizes newspaper headlines across the country; it works its way into late night talk-show routines. The amount of damage you sustain when members of your own party are sniping at you amid this sort of media glare is simply impossible to imagine beforehand.

(Photo: By Win McNamee/Getty Images)