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Hating Karl Rove: Not Just For Liberals Anymore

With his new Conservative Victory Project, Rove seeks to knock off Tea Party candidates in GOP primaries. Tea Party leaders are crying treason.
 
 
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Photo Credit: © Jenny Warburg

 

The Tea Party Express, a political action committee famous for its traveling shows of right-wing agitators and entertainers, is warning its members of a terrifying new threat -- no, not Obamacare, or black helicopters, or gun-seizures. It’s something far more frightening: “We are under attack by Karl Rove,” reads the subject line of a fundraising e-mail from Tea Party Express.

That’s right: The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is lumbering through the streets of the Real America, terrorizing the denizens of Tea-Partyville.

At issue is a new political action committee formed by Rove and his associates at American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, the superPAC and related group that were supposed have been the unstoppable, big-money juggernaut that would win Mitt Romney the presidency.

Having failed that, as well as having backed a bunch of losers in 2012 elections for U.S. Senate seats, Rove, for his donors’ edification, is casting a shiny object onto Tea Party turf, blaming the GOP’s failure to win more Senate races on the movement spawned by the same kind of Machiavellian resentment politics he has long stoked. So, Rove and his Crossroads colleagues have created a new repository for all those fat-cat dollars: the Conservative Victory Project.

If that name sounds kinda, sorta familiar, that’s probably due to its similarity to Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund -- a source of funding for the very Tea Party primary challengers to which Rove posits his own group as an antidote.

Rove is looking to change the subject from his own 2012 failures -- most hilarious among them Rove’s on-air refusal to believe the Fox News “Decision Desk” when it called the State of Ohio for Obama on election night -- by blaming the Tea Party for the GOP’s current troubles. Just give him more millions, Rove essentially is telling donors, and his new group will fix that pesky Tea Party problem.

But given Rove’s record, donors might do well to sit on their cash wads for a bit.

After burning through at least $173.5 million in the 2012 elections, the two groups failed miserably, not only failing to elect Romney, but also backing losers in U.S. Senate races in Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia. Of the $103.5 million spent by American Crossroads, the Sunlight Foundation reports, only 1.29 percent of those funds yielded the desired result.

Senate the Key to Republican Power

While Steven Law, president of American Crossroads, lays the GOP’s Senate defeat at the feet of Todd Akin, the Tea Party-backed Senate candidate in Missouri who claimed that women were unlikely to become pregnant as the result of a “legitimate rape,” and Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party-backed candidate in Indiana who suggested that a pregnancy that resulted from rape was “something God intended.” But as emblematic as those rape philosophers are of a party gone mad, candidates embraced by American Crossroads failed to grace the Senate with a Sen. Tommy Thompson, Wis., a Sen. George Allen, Va., or a Sen. Josh Mandel, Ohio.

Still, the mention of Akin and Mourdock bring enough of a sense of shame to certain big-deal Republicans that the prospect of, say, Iowa Rep. Steve King as a Senate candidate in 2014 may just be enough to inspire the writing of big-deal checks to the new venture. (King is famous for comparing immigrants to dogs.)

Looking at the results of the 2012 presidential election and the composition of President Barack Obama’s winning coalition, Republican strategists know they’re unlikely to recapture the White House in 2016. (Lending credence to this assessment is a Politico report suggesting that Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice presidential candidate, is thinking twice about running for president in 2016, and setting his sights on winning a leadership role in the House of Representatives.) Republicans’ only hope, then, at exercising enough power to implement their own agenda is in building their majority in the House, and winning a majority in the Senate, which would allow them to override the veto of a Democratic president.

In states controlled by Republicans, however, congressional districts have been redrawn in such a way that only the most right-wing candidate is likely to win, all but guaranteeing a robust, slash-and-burn Tea Party caucus in the House. If Rove and Law should succeed, then, at purging the Tea Party from the Senate, they set up a dynamic where the two chambers, even if both are dominated by the GOP, could remain at war with each other.

The Republicans’ Civil War

For progressives, there’s something delicious about the prospect of the GOP’s own civil war -- so much so that some are joining with Tea Partiers who hope to oust Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., by launching a primary challenge to him. (McConnell’s a wee bit too wily to fall for that one, I think; he’s made a fast friend of Kentucky’s junior senator, Rand Paul, the Tea Party darling who won his own seat through a 2010 primary challenge to a Republican establishment candidate hand-picked by McConnell.)

The purpose of the new Conservative Victory Project, according to its founders, is to support “electable” candidates in Republican primaries, and block those deemed “unelectable”. But that leaves this problem for Rove and the Crossroads crowd: figuring out how to win a general election without the right-wing base, whose leaders are threatening to bolt.

The reaction from the right to Rove’s new venture is predictably florid. At the Conservative HQ Web site of right-wing godfather Richard Viguerie, an unsigned editorial reads:

“In any logical universe, the architects of the 2012 disaster -- establishment Republican consultants such as Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, Romney campaign senior adviser Stewart Stevens and pollster Neil Newhouse would never be hired to run or consult on a national campaign again and no one would give a dime to their ineffective Super PACs (such as American Crossroads or its new mini-me, the deceptively named “Conservative Victory project”).

A commenter on the site noted: “Ironic that the purpose of the Conservative Victory Project is to keep conservatives off the ballot.”

At FreedomWorks, itself riven with intrigues (the acorn falling not far from the tree), President Matt Kibbe issued a statement, saying of the new venture:

“The Empire is striking back.  A clear pattern has emerged, beginning with the GOP leadership’s efforts to silence delegates on the floor of the RNC, continuing with House Leadership's purge of fiscally conservative congressmen from their committee positions for voting out of line with the GOP establishment. Now, an Orwellian-named ‘Conservative Victory Project’ is created with the sole operating mission of blocking the efforts of fiscally conservative activists across the country.

Tea Party Express honcho Sal Russo sent out a fundraising e-mail blast (apparently sent from his phone), the group’s second on the Rove project in the last two days, announcing:

We were so enraged by this new Super PAC created to destroy us, that we decided to take our fight to the belly of the beast and submitted an Op-Ed to Washington D.C.'s The Hill and they publis (sic). 

(GET A BRAIN, MORANS!)

But as much as they play underdog to Rove’s deep-pocketed establishmentarians, Tea Partiers are not without their resources. The Koch brothers add more billions to their net worth every year, which they use to support a bevy of right-wing organizations, including the Tea Party-allied Americans For Prosperity, whose leadership is said to be mulling a more direct role in Republican primaries than its traditional issue-based advertising. (For the $140 million spent by AFP in the 2012 election cycle -- some of it to pay for free gas for voters it hoped to woo -- the group didn’t get much for its money.)

Then there’s the Club for Growth. A recent article by Politico’s Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen illustrated that group’s role in helping the most right-wing candidates in GOP primaries with infusions of cash. As an example, the reporters tell the story of Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who went on to win his primary after receiving a FedEx mailer from the Club, stuffed with $300,000 in checks, all unsolicited donations.

Of the Rovian Conservative Victory Project, Club for Growth President Chris Chocola told NewsMax, a right-wing outlet:

“I think there might be some money that is wasted because the question isn’t why Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock lost — we know why they lost,” said Chocola in an exclusive interview on Monday. “The question is really why did Heather Wilson in New Mexico, Rick Berg in North Dakota, Denny Rehberg in Montana, Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, George Allen in Virginia and Linda Lingle in Hawaii — why did they lose?”

The names in that second list? All supported by American Crossroads.







 

Adele M. Stan is a journalist based in Washington, D.C., who specializes in covering the intersection of religion and politics. She is RH Reality Check's senior Washington correspondent.