The GOP’s intraparty feuds haven’t disappeared

March 1, 2013

The battle over sequestration was the dominant topic of discussion in Washington this week. But take a closer look at some events that didn't receive as much attention and you'll find that there was another notable story line: The intraparty arguments that have plagued the GOP in the recent past haven't disappeared. Consider:

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Republicans are at a crossroads and some of the party's old fights are reemerging. (Leon Neal -- AFP/Getty Images)

* The American Conservative Union snubbed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), declining to extend a CPAC speaking invitation to one of the GOP's leading figures and a possible 2016 presidential candidate.

* The Club For Growth, an anti-tax group that has built its reputation for taking on perceived moderate congressional Republicans, put nine House incumbents in safe GOP districts on notice. And the Club's president said Karl Rove and his Conservative Victory Project that seeks to identify electable Republicans don't care about the core beliefs candidates hold.

* Speaking of the Conservative Victory Project, an outspoken congressman the group has publicly identified as an example of the kind of candidate it has concerns about now looks like the presumptive frontrunner for the Republican Senate nomination in Iowa. After Rep. Tom Latham (R) said this week that he won't run, Rep. Steve King (R), a staunchly conservative and sometime controversial  Republican, looks like he would have the inside track to the nomination, if he chooses to run. If he does, Republicans who don't like him will have a decision to make.

* A vote over the Violence Against Women Act divided congressional Republicans. And it marked the third time since December that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) allowed legislation to move off the floor that didn't have the support of a majority of his conference.

None of the developments, on their own, was groundbreaking or even entirely unexpected.  But taken together, they reveal that the Republican Party continues to face fractures that could generate higher-profile fights down the line.

The Club's posturing and King's emergence as a potential Senate frontrunner illustrate how the intraparty congressional campaign battles that have cost Republicans seats the past two cycles have yet to disappear. The conservative discomfort with Christie could become a more significant development if he runs for president. Finally, the divide that has continued to seize the House GOP stands to be a factor in upcoming legislative battles, if it persists.

None of this is to say that all intraparty disagreement are necessarily harmful. Disagreements can help parties sort out their views. And it would probably be impossible to find a Democratic or Republican Party at any point in time with leaders who agreed on everything.

But the Republican Party is in the midst of a healing process right now, following an election in which it fell short of reclaiming the White House and Senate. If there was ever a time when more unity would arguably be a political asset, it's now. But with many competing voices, the reality is that the GOP's path forward doesn't look like it will be free of some rough patches at the least, and major impasses at the most.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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