LIMBAUGH VS. GINGRICH…. Rush Limbaugh insists he doesn’t want to be the leader of the Republican Party. But somehow, he seems to keep engaging in high-profile fights with those who do want to be the GOP’s leader.

The fissure between Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich seemed to begin in earnest about a week ago, at CPAC. Gingrich urged conservative activists to embrace an ambitious policy agenda, which he would generously write, shape, and outline for the right. Limbaugh, soon after, said conservatives need to “stop assuming that the way to beat them is with better policy ideas.”

On Sunday, Gingrich made the next move on “Meet the Press,” arguing, without mentioning the right-wing radio host’s name, “You’ve got to want the president to succeed. You’re irrational if you don’t want the president to succeed. Because if he doesn’t succeed the country doesn’t succeed…. I don’t think anyone should want the president of the United States to fail.”

Limbaugh naturally assumed the former Speaker was calling him out, so he responded on the air.

“I’m frankly getting tired of talking about Newt. I mean, it’s a pointless exercise,” Limbaugh said of Gingrich’s dismissal of him on “Meet the Press.” “I’m surprised by nothing when I’m dealing with people in the media who think they’re in politics. … They are fly-by-night operators, and most of them stand for nothing until they see a poll about what the American people want, and then they go out and try to say one way or another what the American people want while trying to falsely hold onto an ideology at the same time — and you can’t count on them. You can’t depend on them. They will sell you out; they will throw you overboard to save themselves, faster than anything. And they’ll use you on their way up as often as they can at the same time.”

“I mean, next week Newt could come out and profess his total admiration and love for me if it would serve his purposes,” he continued. “They’re running TV ads against me. Newt Gingrich wishes they were running TV ads against him.”

So, I guess the next question is, will Gingrich follow the Steele/Sanford/Gingrey example and apologize for hurting Limbaugh’s feelings? Or risk alienating the right-wing host’s minions?

What’s more, it seemed as if we were dealing with a divided conservative movement, with reform-minded Republicans like Crist, Brooks, Frum, and Huntsman taking on pretty much every other GOP leader in the party. But it’s really more like a three-way fissure — Brooks’ reformers, Gingrich’s conservatives, and Limbaugh’s conservatives.

As intra-party disputes go, the substantive differences are mild, but the dividing lines are nevertheless clear.

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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.