It was a busy Tuesday in Washington. Paul Ryan conditionally agreed to run for speaker of the House, Jim Webb dropped out of the Democratic presidential race and Joe Biden is presumably another day closer to deciding whether he'll drop in.

Aside from being near-milestones in politicians' careers, these three events don't seem to have much in common. But Ryan, Biden and Webb are each in their own way grappling with changes in the political parties they have sought to lead.

As recently as 2012, Ryan was one of the main conservative movement favorites in Congress. He acquired two of his dream jobs, chairman of the House Budget Committee and then chairman of Ways and Means. He was prevailed upon to accept the Republican nomination for vice president and now he may reluctantly accept his party nomination for speaker.

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But Ryan now faces pockets of conservative resistance in the Tea Party GOP. Some have disagreed with him on tactics, others on substantive issues like the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the TARP bailout or immigration. That last issue has become a litmus test for populist conservatives outside Congress. Process reforms that may or may not mesh well with Ryan's conditions for seeking the speakership seem to be the litmus test for activist conservatives inside Congress.

To add further confusion, some of the same radio talk show hosts and commentators who once praised Ryan when he was Mitt Romney's running mate three years ago now denounce him as a RINO.

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