DRIVING THE WEDGE…. MSNBC’s “First Read” asks today: “[A]re House Republicans trying to drive a wedge between Nancy Pelosi and President Obama?”

Of course they are. I thought that was obvious.

[J]ust because Obama has so far been able to disarm them doesn’t mean Republicans are about to surrender. On the contrary, many Republicans are simply focusing their fire on a much softer target, hoping to drive a wedge between the President and his party at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. “If you have an opponent with a 70% approval rating and one with a 20% approval rating, you’re going to go after the one with a 20% approval rating,” a House GOP leadership aide said, referring to the Democratically controlled Congress’ dismal approval ratings.

So while House Republicans praised Obama in their first breath on Tuesday, in their second breath they slammed Pelosi. […]

Sowing the seeds of discontent between Obama and Pelosi is a no-lose proposition for the GOP: If Obama wins they get a bigger seat at the table, and if Pelosi gets her way, it’s a blow to Obama’s promises of inclusiveness and bipartisanship. “If he’s willing to kick [the Democratic leaders], we’re willing to applaud, we’ll take it,” another GOP leadership aide said. “Am I trying to stir up trouble between him and his party? Of course I am.”

It’s shaped Republican rhetoric throughout the process. The GOP minority doesn’t see any real value in launching attacks against a popular president, so they’re attacking Democrats in Congress (who are, by the way, more popular than Republicans in Congress). As a result, Republican lawmakers have praised Obama’s outreach and willingness to compromise, while bashing Pelosi & Co. for not being cooperative — or “bipartisan” — enough.

“First Read” asked, “The question is, of course, how long will Speaker Pelosi put up with the idea that Republicans have the president to whine to when they are not getting their way?”

Actually, I’m not sure Pelosi cares. If the Speaker and the President are playing good-cop/bad-cop with Republicans, she’ll draw the GOP’s ire, Obama will make some temporary concessions and lend Republicans a sympathetic ear, and Democrats will still get the bill they want signed into law.

Republicans think they’ll gain an advantage if they balk at the House bill, because it will undermine “Obama’s promises of inclusiveness and bipartisanship.” Maybe, but I doubt it. The president has spent quite a bit of energy reaching out to the GOP, going to great lengths to hear them out. If Republicans are hoping to convince the public that the White House hasn’t been “inclusive” enough, it’s going to be a tough sell.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.