RUSH VS. ROVE…. Just a couple of months ago, Rush Limbaugh tapped Karl Rove to be a guest-host for his right-wing radio program, suggesting the two are fairly close, if not personally, than at least ideologically.

But there are some lines of division, even among powerful far-right media personalities. In a recent interview, Rove noted that Tea Partiers are “not sophisticated,” an observation that seems more than fair. Limbaugh didn’t quite see it that way.

“[M]eanwhile, there are Republican political operatives insulting Tea Party members of not being sophisticated, not having read Friedrich Von Hayek. Wonderful, great people, but just not sophisticated. Karl Rove said this, but he’s not alone. I got a note today from a friend, ‘Why would Karl be saying this, Rush? You know Karl. Why would he be saying this? Why doesn’t Karl learn to keep his mouth shut?’

I said, ‘Karl means to say this. Mike Murphy, all these guys, they think this.’ It’s not easy for me say here, folks, it really isn’t. But it’s what ought to be a euphoric period still indicates that on the Republican side there are divisions and jealousies and egos and competition.

And the simplest explanation is that the Tea Party cannot be claimed as credit by anybody. Nobody can say, ‘I am the Tea Party.’ Nobody can say, ‘I started the Tea Party.’ Nobody can say, ‘I saw the Tea Party coming, and I steered it.’ Nobody who makes a living generating political support, generating political donations, nobody in that business can point to the Tea Party and say, ‘I did it.’ So it’s a threat.”

This isn’t the first time Rove has annoyed the GOP’s extremist base with observations that seemed incontrovertibly true. A month ago, Rove dismissed Christine O’Donnell as a “nutty” candidate who’s very likely to lose. Far-right activists were extremely unhappy with the remarks, and Rove quickly backpedaled.

This is, I suspect, evidence of genuine tensions between the Republican establishment and its foot-soldiers, which certainly bears watching, especially after the midterms.

But I’m not sure either Rove or Limbaugh are correct. They both consider Tea Party zealots to be part of a powerful, bottom-up movement, though I think the evidence is equally strong that we’re just talking about an agitated Republican base with a different brand name, led by the nose by corporate lobbyists, Dick Armey, Fox News, and the Republican Party that needs extremists’ enthusiasm to win elections.

Regardless, the next step will be watching to see if Rove apologizes, as Republicans who upset Limbaugh are generally expected to do.

Steve Benen

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.