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More help for gridlock

I don’t mean more help for overcoming gridlock. It’s help for those rooting for gridlock to continue.

You probably weren’t holding your breath for a “grand bargain” any time soon out of the gridlocked Capitol. But the latest blow against such a compromise is a primary challenge, from the right, against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking member of the Senate Republican leadership.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was already facing a primary challenge from the right. As are several other Repub incumbents. Now, with the recent announcement of Texas Congressman Steve Stockman that he will challenge Cornyn for the nomination, the top two Senate Republican leaders will be looking nervously over their rights shoulders.

It’s not as if McConnell or Cornyn had shown any great interest in compromise. And a few years ago they wouldn’t have been described as particularly moderate. But they are old-fashioned conservatives of the style that predominated before the Tea Party and Liberty movements became such big factors in the Republican picture and before “primary” became a dreaded verb (as in: Cornyn is now being “primaried.”)

When an old-fashioned conservative, especially one in a solid red state where he doesn’t much need to worry about losing to a Democrat, gets primaried from the right, the biggest thing he needs to worry about is looking squishy on any of the hot-button issues that separate the two parties.

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As NBC’s First Read explains: “Stockman probably can’t beat Cornyn, but he further freezes the GOP leadership from making any compromises with the Democrats.”

And it’s not just the Senate’s top two Republicans who must glance nervously over their right shoulders. As the First Read-ers also note, of the 12 Senate Republican incumbents seeking reelection in 2014, seven of them now face primary challengers from the right.