The House GOP leadership tonight put all its chips on a “Plan B” strategy to isolate Senate Democrats and force President Obama to make additional concessions to conservatives. Since Democrats such as Sen. Chuck Schumer once embraced setting the threshold for income tax hikes at $1 million, as Plan B would have, Republicans could theoretically protect themselves from blame if lawmakers fail to reach an agreement to avert the “fiscal cliff.”

But at least two dozen House GOPers refused to support leadership—either out of dogged anti-tax principles or fear of a primary challenge, or both. Plan B failed, and House Republicans are in a flutter.

The problem with Plan B, as I saw it Wednesday, was its stark imbalance of risk and benefit. If it passed—sure, maybe Democrats are put in the slightly awkward position of rejecting legislation some of them once favored. Maybe Obama’s White House is compelled to tilt further in your direction once negotiations resumed. Maybe the media and general public won’t blame you—or blame you as harshly—in the event that we do go over the cliff.

But if it failed … well, we’re seeing the fruits of that failure tonight. Speculation is rampant that Rep. John Boehner’s speakership is imperiled. President Obama’s negotiating hand has unmistakably been strengthened. If a deal is eventually struck with Congress, it will take the support of House Democrats and almost certainly be on terms less favorable than those the White House and Boehner had worked out as of early this week.

And yet conservative hardliners like Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, still smarting from having been booted from the House Steering Committee, are seemingly giddy:

On a separate note, Republican leadership thought they could silence conservatives when they kicked us off our Committees. I’m glad that enough of my colleagues refused to back down after the threats and intimidation, thus preventing the Conference from abandoning our principles.

These conservatives—well-intentioned, perhaps, but tactically foolhardy—are steering the Republican party and the movement into an iceberg that’s been in plain sight for weeks.

I’d say I’m in disbelief, but this clown show has been going on too long now to say that.