With political prognosticators increasingly convinced of a Republican takeover of Congress this fall, the highest ranks of the GOP have done their best to present a united front to voters.
In successive interviews this week, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) -- the caucus member seen as his philosophical antagonist -- both stressed that there won't be a battle for the leader's post in the next congressional session.
"First of all, I already have the votes to be re-elected as Republican leader, and will be re-elected," McConnell told ABC's "Top Line." Bolstering that claim, DeMint told the National Review that same day that he wouldn't challenge the Kentucky Republican in a leadership contest.
Not everyone, however, is sold on the idea that electoral gains will smooth the frictions inside the GOP.
"Right now, there is no coherent philosophy leading the GOP establishment other than anti-Obamaism," said Craig Shirley, a longtime party strategist. "And while that may be an effective organizing theme for a political party whose 'War Room' mentality has dominated it for the past ten years, it is hardly a governing set of principles."
"Assuming November goes as expected," Shirley added, "the GOP will shortly thereafter descend into a brawl that will resemble the bar scene from 'Star Wars'. One side will claim the election is a vindication of Bush's big government conservatism while another side, the Reaganites, allied with the Tea Party movement, will more astutely see the results as a repudiation of both Bush's and Obama's embrace of big government."
Long a skeptic about Republican leadership during the Obama presidency, Shirley's concerns about Republican disunity aren't entirely rare within the party ranks. The purge of not only moderates but the fiscally un-conservative that has defined this election cycle seems destined to morph into a philosophical battle over the direction of the GOP once the new class of members is seated.
"I think there will be resistance on the part of leadership for more ideologically driven initiatives," said Brian Darling, Director of Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation. "I think what will happen is you will have these conservative revolutionaries coming in and pushing change on leadership and leadership is not going to like it."
"The challenge will be with the appropriators not the liberals in the caucus," said Grover Norquist, the famed small-government advocate and president of Americans for Tax Reform. "These are the people who came of age, ran for federal office, in the two-year period of negative reaction to spending and watched people lose primaries in Alaska and Utah and Colorado because of tax increases and spending. It is going to be a caucus much more sensitive to the spending issue."
Speculation about forthcoming GOP friction is undoubtedly premature. There is no final word on how the congressional elections will play out, let alone what the composition of the next Republican caucus will be.
But even now -- two months before votes have been cast -- the more conservative wing of the party is proclaiming November to be an ideological vindication. DeMint, for one, predicted that if the next Republican caucus were to abandon the Tea Party principles on which it ran, it would be "dead as a party -- and should be."
Darling, likewise, foresees a GOP legislative brand that is girded heavily to avoiding the past mistakes that made the party so distrusted by its conservative base.
"One of the things the next Congress is going to do will be spending reform... we are going to have members coming in that will have real strong budget reform. It will be akin to 'pay-go' on steroids. It will be a proactive agenda, maybe comprehensive tax reform, reforming the tax code to make it fair. And I think there will be a series of repeals of the offensive pieces of legislation, including Obamacare and so-called financial reform."
And on Friday, former House Majority Leader Tom Delay went so far as to insist that if the Republican Party doesn't repeal health care reform, it would be "in big trouble."
McConnell, of course, would gladly welcome the internal frictions and personal headaches that come with managing a more diverse caucus. There is power in numbers. And if the Kentucky Republican has proven one thing these past 18 months, it is that he can unite disparate factions around certain principles, chief among them that there are political benefits to opposing the president.
"I think if we have a larger number of Republicans," the senator said on "Top Line," "it will hopefully move [Obama] to the political center, which is the way he ran in '08, but not the way he's governed since then. And hopefully, if he moves to the center or the right of center, we can do business."