The way that things are shaping up in the House is that there not two but three “parties” of near-equal strength. There are the mainstream Republicans, the Tea Party Republicans, and the Democrats. On hot-button issues like border security, Voter ID, and the sonogram bill, the two Republican factions will join to overwhelm the Democrats. Straus will be moving these bills through the House and his supporters will be voting for them in self-preservation. The fight is going to come over education, and the Republican caucus could split wide open over issues like getting rid of Pre-K, closing neighborhood schools, and doing away with the 22:1 student-teacher ratio. The issues that mainstream Republicans are going to hate to deal with are those that that bring them into potential conflict with influential people in their districts–superintendents, hospital administrators, junior college presidents, university regents, all of whose institutions are dependent upon the state for their funding. Mainstream Republicans are going to be caught between Tea Party conservatives and their traditional constituencies of parents and professionals. In order to prevail, the mainstream conservatives have nowhere to look for help except the Democrats. They sure aren’t going to get any help from the Conservative Coalition, which has already demonstrated its disinterest in public education, starting with Pre-K. We are months away from this outcome, and maybe a couple of special sessions too, but when you have three factions in a legislative body, sooner or later one of them is going to cut a deal with another one, and the least strange bedfellows are mainstream Republicans and Democrats.