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The Divided GOP

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

On Thursday's program I interviewed a man I greatly admire but with whom I have a significant disagreement about the tax deal making its way through the Congress: Senator Orrin Hatch.

The transcript of our conversation is here, as are interview transcripts with numerous other members of the Congress conducted over the past two weeks.

The divide in the GOP is deep and, while largely unreported, it will have consequences far more profound for the party than the divide among Democrats that has gotten most of the attention since President Obama announced the "compromise" on Monday, December 6.

The divide among conservatives is mirrored in the split among likely GOP presidential candidates.

Newt Gingrich and Senator John Thune have defended the deal. Mitt Romney and Congressman Mike Pence have urged its defeat. Other Republican candidates will weigh in in the weeks and months ahead and their disagreements will be about tactics, not substance.

Every GOP leader will say that they favor permanent extension of the Bush tax rates. Every GOP leader will announce the ethanol subsidies and most of the other spending in "the deal."

All of the conservatives will deplore the return of the death tax.

Since there is unity on policy, why so much division among the ranks?

Simply put, the base wants to fight it out now, and the D.C. GOP does not want a battle they don't think they can win against the combined forces of the president, Harry Reid backed by the rules of the Senate and the MSM.,

The base has a lot more faith in the Republican senators than the Republican senators do.

The weary realists among the GOP have seen decades of initiatives by fiscal conservatives fail to carry the day in the Congress. They know the new House can send over a thousand bills but that the Democratic majority can turn them all aside. Thus they saw a chance for two more years of the Bush tax rates and took it, even at the cost of additional deficit spending. They want more time to set up the confrontation and they wanted to avoid any chance of a tax hike that might not be able to be repealed retroactively in 2011.

By contrast, the "this is a new day" side of the party want a showdown with the left and they want it sooner rather than later. This part of the conservative movement believes that that confrontation cannot be avoided given the size of the deficit, and the board was set up as well as it ever could be.

For the moment caution largely rules among republicans inside the Beltway and boldness the GOP land beyond D.C. The Congressional primary season of 2012 is more than a year away, but the lines have already been drawn, and the Lame Duck Congress put the markers down, largely without even knowing they were doing so.

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