“They [the lawmakers who voted for the compromise] can make excuses about this one because of the position they were in, but there really aren’t any excuses about the debt ceiling,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. “They really have the advantage on the debt ceiling, but they have to be willing to use it. It’s not clear that they’ll use it, but they have the chance.”…

“We cannot allow that to go away, for good philosophical reasons…but politically as well,” Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips said of the debt ceiling. “It would be another big mistake to quietly let the debt limit be kicked down the highway without a big, big fight…[Obama is] hoping and praying at night that he won’t have to talk about that because it’s a losing fight for the left. [Republicans] have more leverage than they think.”…

Another conservative leader, who is certainly not a squish, fretted privately about a race to the right in the wake of the fiscal cliff vote. He worries that groups will never sign off on reasonable legislative compromises because they are afraid of losing their most active donors and vocal grassroots supporters to competing conservative organizations. He believes Boehner’s Plan B — which would have raised taxes on millionaires, but never made it to the floor for a vote — was better than what they wound up getting stuck with. At a certain point, such a drive to the right could marginalize the credibility of all right-leaning groups, the leader said.

“It’s just crazy,” the activist said of the criticism of the deal. “Obama’s kept his enemies divided…These groups have such an incentive to move further and further to the right.”