Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NY Times-The GOP; The Crosswinds Of Strife At The Top

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(Story reported by Michael D. Shear for the NY Times)

What do Republicans stand for?

As the first half of President Obama’s term comes to a close, three political realities are forcing Republicans to confront that question more directly, and producing interesting conflicts along the way.

The first reality is the assumption of power by Republicans in the House next year. After two years of being a political minority in Congress, the party’s lawmakers are showing signs of the disagreement that comes with the responsibility to lead.

The second reality is the presidential campaign that begins in earnest for Republicans as soon as Washington returns from the holidays next month. The search for a challenger to Mr. Obama is designed to highlight the differences among Republicans, and it’s already beginning to do so.

Tea Party lawmakers are the third political reality. The arrival in Washington of a significant number of lawmakers born out of that movement is already beginning to reshape the conversation in congress and on the campaign trail as Republicans adapt their rhetoric to a new political power at the grassroots.

All three have been on display as lawmakers have debated the tax compromise worked out by Mr. Obama and congressional Republicans. What began as an story about divisions inside the Democratic party has quickly become a vehicle for revealing the differences in political philosophy inside the Republican party.

On the floor of the Senate Tuesday, Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota, a possible candidate for president, used the tax deal to take a not-so-subtle shot at one of his potential rivals.

“It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and criticize this proposal,” Mr. Thune said in remarks first reported by ABC News. “And it’s perhaps even politically expedient to stand on the sidelines and criticize this proposal.

But let me make one thing very clear Mr. President, advocating against this tax proposal is to advocate for a tax increase.”

Mr. Thune might have been referring to Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, who opposes the tax compromise. But he may also have been sending a message to Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Mr. Romney had staked out his opposition to the tax deal in an article in USA Today on Tuesday.

(Click here to read the full story on the NY Times website.)

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