GOP Fanatics Versus Realists? Obama Wins

The party fights with itself over a government shutdown and a pathway to citizenship while Obama works swing voters.

Cartoon about tea party loons
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But the fanatics on the right talk about it as if it's a real possibility. And as Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn – no northeastern moderate – told the Washington Post's Sarah Kliff last week, "This is misleading the conservative base because it's not achievable, and all it will do in the long run is dispirit the base. This is a failed strategy for conservatives."

It also only exacerbates the split between the realists and the screaming posers – not to mention the gap between the GOP and swing voters.

And do you know who is working both of those gaps? President Obama and his strategists. Hence the series of August speeches he has planned aimed at positioning himself as focused on the middle class and jobs (in contrast to a GOP still obsessed with Obamacare). Obama's had success exploiting the gap between public opinion and the GOP: Recall the fiscal cliff deal, the Violence Against Women Act and the Hurricane Sandy relief bill, all of which passed despite a majority of House Republicans opposing them.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

"There really has been a caucus of common sense in the Senate," Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer told reporters at a breakfast this week, describing the Republicans who helped pass the immigration bill and cut the deal on approving the president's executive nominees. He added: "The gridlock of the moment is not predictive of what's going to happen in the future on big issues."

The tea party right had better hope he's wrong. If the GOP's pragmatist wing really does start to reassert itself – passing immigration reform and defusing a shutdown would be a good start – it could signal an end to the tea party's lock on the party. The next few weeks will be critical. This could be the summer of the radicals' discontent.

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