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How will GOP handle election letdown? Michigan union fight offers clues.

The moderate and conservative wings of the Michigan GOP are split over whether to move forward on an anti-union bill. Some say it's the sort of thing that cost the GOP votes Tuesday.

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Protesters gather in the Michigan Capitol Rotunda in Lansing, Mich., as they rally against Gov. Rick Snyder's proposal to empower emergency financial managers to void union contracts in this 2011 file photo. The governor’s plan helped inspire a 2012 ballot initiative to put collective bargaining rights in the state constitution, which failed.

Al Goldis/AP/File

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Growing tensions between the moderate and conservative wings of the Republican Party after the disappointment of Tuesday's elections are already playing out in Michigan, as it considers becoming the latest Midwestern state to take up anti-union legislation.

One bright spot for Republicans Tuesday was the rejection by Michigan voters of a union-backed proposal to amend the state constitution to protect collective-bargaining rights. Now, some Republican lawmakers see that defeat as an opportunity to introduce so-called “right to work” legislation in the upcoming session that adjourns Dec. 20.

Right-to-work legislation targets companies and unions that allow unions to deduct monthly dues from all employees – even if they aren't union members. Republicans say right-to-work legislation creates a friendly business environment, which creates more jobs. Democrats see the legislation as an attempt to break unions.

The potential for a right-ro-work bill in Michigan is significant because the state – as the center of the US auto industry – is in many ways the Mecca of the American labor movement. But following Tuesday's elections, in which many pundits say Republicans underperformed nationally by veering too far right, the debate in Michigan also offers a glimpse at how the tug-of-war within the GOP might play out in one key state.

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