Karl Rove vs. the Tea Party

The ongoing battle over the GOP's disputed soul remains one of the most interesting–and promising–national political stories going these days.

A new New York Times piece details how the post-Romney Republican Establishment is pushing back against an insurgent wing that is both primarying out GOP incumbents in favor of more fiscally conservative candidates who sometimes lose, and also producing the bulk of the decaying party's interesting new talent:

The biggest donors in the Republican Party are financing a new group to recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party’s efforts to win control of the Senate.

The group, the Conservative Victory Project, is intended to counter other organizations that have helped defeat establishment Republican candidates over the last two election cycles. It is the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense of discipline on the party, particularly in primary races.

"There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected," said Steven J. Law, the president of American Crossroads, the "super PAC" creating the new project. "We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win." [...]

The Conservative Victory Project, which is backed by Karl Rove and his allies who built American Crossroads into the largest Republican super PAC of the 2012 election cycle, will start by intensely vetting prospective contenders for Congressional races to try to weed out candidates who are seen as too flawed to win general elections.

Shots fired, as the Twitter kids say. Politico gets reaction from Rove's targets:

Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, branded it the "Conservative Defeat Project."

"The Conservative Defeat Project is yet another example of the Republican establishment's hostility toward its conservative base. Rather than listening to the grassroots and working to advance their principles, the establishment has chosen to declare war on the party’s most loyal supporters," Hoskins said. "If they keep this up, the party will remain in the wilderness for decades to come."

Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller essentially responded by pointing to the scoreboard in recent primaries in which conservative insurgents have prevailed and emerged as influential GOP leaders.

"They are welcome to support the likes of Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist and David Dewhurst," Keller said of the new Crossroads group. "We will continue to proudly support the likes of Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz."

How does Karl Rove differ from the insurgent wing he's trying to discipline? By advocating that House Republicans shy away from cutting government, and instead target mostly whatever trims (from future spending increases) that have been recommended by President Barack Obama and his National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. For a very different view, read Brian Doherty's interviews with four liberty-movement-type Congressmen online, and in our just-off-the-presses March issue (subscribe, already!).

Related: The most interesting Tea Party Senator of 'em all, Rand Paul, will be giving a major foreign policy address this Wednesday at...the Heritage Foundation.

Below, watch how the Establishment v. Grassroots played out at the Republican National Convention last year:

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  • Brett L||

    You can recycle that Charlie Crist picture. I do believe FL Democrats are dumb enough to support him against Rubio in '16.

  • Pro Libertate||

    All any opponent of Crist has to do is run his Morgan & Morgan ("Fuck the people") ad. Over and over again.

    I don't know and never have known a single person who likes Charlie Crist.

  • Brett L||

    I had one gay friend who worked somewhere in the Executive staff that liked him. Because that was 3 gay Republicans (friend's partner also) he knew of.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Was your friend's name Charlie Crist per chance?

  • Brett L||

    Nope. Then I'd have said I liked him.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Fucker has one thing. A tan. That's it.

  • Brett L||

    Don't forget his beard. Wait. Is he still married?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think so. Personally, I think Charlie is bisexual. Going both ways is more apropos to his personality.

  • Bam!||

    Conservative candidates lose some elections. Therefore, we must elect liberal candidates who wave the party flag.

    Surely that'll lead to sound policy.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    To sane Americans "most conservative" = biggest Bible Beater.

    Conservatives lost their "small gov" cred 2001-2009.

  • wareagle||

    conservatives can regain it. Liberals never had it. I like the former position better.

  • sarcasmic||

    If only conservatives could be more like their patron saint, St Reagan, who lowered taxes, expanded government spending, increased government debt, added nearly a quarter million heads to the federal bureaucracy, and enacted protectionist trade policy.

    Yay Reagan!

  • SIV||

    You left out "freed 100s of Millions from communist totalitarianism".

  • Killazontherun||

    That was due to, as the Gipper himself noted, the failure of soviet economic planning. He gets credit for ending the policies of detente which propped the Soviets up a decade longer than they otherwise would have survived.

  • Cytotoxic||

    enacted protectionist trade policy.

    What? NAFTA was the opposite of this.

  • ||

    NAFTA negotiations started under Bush I and were concluded under Clinton.

    Like most things about Reagan his rhetoric on free trade was never matched by his actions.

  • Hugh Akston||

    The Conservative Victory Project, which is backed by Karl Rove and his allies who built American Crossroads into the largest Republican super PAC of the 2012 election cycle, will start by intensely vetting prospective contenders for Congressional races to try to weed out candidates who are seen as too flawed to win general elections.

    Question One: What is the most insane public pronouncement you can think of to make about rape and/or abortion?

  • Bam!||

    If we end abortions, we'll get more children, which will solve all our problems.

    First, children need food and clothing, which will create new food and clothing related jobs, thus solving our unemployment problems.

    Second, those children will get older, and get jobs (probably in the food and clothing industry), thus helping pay for Social Security and Medicare.

    Finally, when they inherit their parents wealth, the inheritance tax will kick in and take care of the national debt.

    Therefore, we need to end abortions now.

  • Mickey Rat||

    You mean like the argument put forth in Freakonomics that more abortions equal less crime?

  • R C Dean||

    Karl Rove and his allies who built American Crossroads into the largest Republican super PAC of the 2012 election cycle

    Because that worked out so well.

  • Drake||

    The faster Karl can destroy the GOP, the better.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Is it just me or does it seem like the knee-jerk anti-Tea Partiers seem to be implicitly supporting the Bush-era Republican establishment (such as Rove) in these little infights?

    Their jokes are always along the lines of "HAHA, the Tea Party is so extreme even Karl Rove is against them!" It it just me, or does that sound like they view the Karl Rove wing of the GOP as the better wing?

  • Raven Nation||

    I think you're right. Why do they think that way? I assume it's b/c Rove delivered two GWB victories.

  • SIV||

    If "W" was a Donk president they would've loved him. The only real difference between the mainstream establishment wings of the two parties is cultural signaling and favored interest groups.The Elephants do make better bureaucratic and judicial appointments for the most part because the establishment then has to chose from a pool containing ideologues.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    They do recognize it's a bloc of their voters they're pushing back against, right?

  • Drake||

    No, they don't. They are too stupid to realize they are driving half their voters away.

  • GroundTruth||

    Maybe not driving them away, but certainly giving them no reason to come out and vote on election day... which is another way of guaranteeing that the dems stay in power.

  • Bam!||

    They believe that voter bloc will always be with the Republican party regardless of the what the party does. Therefore, they believe that bloc can be abused.

  • Raven Nation||

    I think they're convinced that the TP is a small, extreme group of voters that has no chance of swaying an election. They would probably point at Ron Paul (and to some extent Michelle Bachman) as proof that the TP groups have no real power.

    What they don't seem to understand is that if the GOP actually changed its policies to line up with TP groups, they may actually draw in voters who didn't go to the polls in '08 or '12 (as GroundTruth pointed out).

  • robc||

    Do they want to explain Rand Paul or Thomas Massie defeating the establishment candidate in primaries?

  • SIV||

    Or Paul Broun (R-GA) defeating Charles Dawin in the general election.

  • Raven Nation||

    No, they do not want to explain that. They would probably prefer to point to "wacky" TP candidates that lost in the general election. A lot of this, I suspect, goes back to Goldwater's '64 campaign.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Ridiculously red states/districts?

    How do the TP candidates do in swing states and swing districts? Tom Smith got stomped by an AWB aficionado in the Senate race here in PA.

  • Mickey Rat||

    They understand this, the GOP establishment find that kind of ideological confrontation unpalatable because they don't believe it, or because they don't have the stomach for a fight.

  • R C Dean||

    From my first-had observations in Texas, the "establishment" Repubs would trade a Tea Party member for a Democrat every single time. They hate 'em, make no mistake.

    The fact that the establishment Repubs running an establishment candidate managed to blow what should have been a fairly easy win, given the economy, over Obama in 2012 is somehow, in their minds, the Tea Party's fault. Note how all their "soul-searching" following that loss is focussed on how to move left, not how to engage and grow the genuine grassroots movement in their own ranks, one with an actual track record of handing Dems their asses in the 2010 elections.

    Ah, well. When the Repubs finally exit stage left, perhaps that will open the door to a real party realignment that will give the small government folks a real shot.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Which kind of blows the idea circulating around here that a Romney loss will cause the GOP to embrace small government policies.

  • robc||

    Well, they might not have a choice, when the "tea party radicals" outnumber the others.

  • ||

    We can hope.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    The R's could get me back in the fold, but only after Tea Partiers and libertarians have wrested control. What, maybe 25 years from now?

  • Rasilio||

    Well in fairness the loss can probably be blamed on idiotic statements about abortion by Republicans during the election as anything else.

    Mourcock and Akin combined probably cost Romney 2 - 3% of the popular vote simply by focusing the message on abortion, away from economics and forcing Romney to play defense rather than attacking.

    The one thing I am not certain of is whether those 2 come from the Tea Party or Establishment wings.

  • R C Dean||

    Given the state of the economy and all the other sticks the Repubs had to beat Obama with, a couple of downticket idiots, however hyped by the DemOp media, shouldn't have been able to make any difference.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Dude, seriously?

    The exit polls showed that more people cared about empathy than fixing the economy.

    All summer long, myself and others were amazed at how foolish the BO campaign looked with their tactics. We thought they were just randomly thrashing about or trying to save some dignity with the left after their inevitable defeat.

    We were wrong. They knew EXACTLY what they were doing.

    This isn't a nation of 300 million H+R commenters. it shouldn't have made any difference, but it did.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    Mourdock was Tea Party, he unseated Lugar in the primary. I think his loss was the hardest of the election. His abortion/rape "gaffe" was a pretty uncontroversially Christian statement, and the media turned it into a bizarre comment about rape being a gift.

  • ||

    in their minds, the Tea Party's fault.

    This is to be expected. Human nature is that you'll blame others before turning the microscope upon yourself.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    If the GOP disappears it's going to be Dems vs. Greens in the new party alignment. Sorry to break it to you.

  • Romulus Augustus||

    Having been around the tea party since the beginning, I can confirm that some of the people they talk about as potential candidates are unpolished, inarticulate, liable to blurt out nonsense, and have no professional or career backgrounds that would lead many voters to want them "in charge." The more articulate and accomplished folks are precisely the ones who shy away from running for office NTTAWWT.
    [Libertarians have the same problem.] The TP needs training schools for candidates, they need lower office winners who can gain polish and then move up to run for higher office, and they need to know how to handle interviews and press conferences.

  • sarcasmic||

    How do you get past the fact that most who seek power do so to expand it, while people who would shrink government rarely seek out the power to do so?

    Sometimes I think we'd be better off if elections were replaced with lotteries.

  • Brett L||

    they talk about as potential candidates are unpolished, inarticulate, liable to blurt out nonsense, and have no professional or career backgrounds that would lead many voters to want them "in charge."

    Joe Biden is offended.

  • sarcasmic||

    Now if only the Libertarian Party renounced their opposition to the Drug War and to foreign occupation, stopped naming specifics when talking about cutting government, and opposed abortion and gay marriage, they could attract Tea Party Republicans.

  • John||

    Didn't they pretty much do that when they nominated Gary Johnson? Johnson's website was all about how he was going to be the guy who saved entitlements.

  • sarcasmic||

    One out of five isn't exactly "pretty much." Thank you for playing, Red Tony.

  • John||

    Johnson never said he wanted to end the drug war either. He only said he wanted to make pot legal. He never supported full legalization.


    It is okay to have idols. But you should at least try to understand who they are rather than pretending they are something they are not.

  • sarcasmic||

    You make a compelling case. Too bad you're arguing against a straw man.

    Aren't there some chubbies you should be chasing?

  • John||

    So it is a "straw man" to point out what Johnson actually supported? That is an interesting use of the term.

  • sarcasmic||

    It's a straw man to call him my idol and accuse me of not doing any research on him, Red Tony.

    Also, it is a straw man to claim that the slightest deviation from the Party platform is equal to ignoring the whole thing, Red Tony.

    Keep it up, Red Tony.

    It's funny to watch your inner Republican flail about, Red Tony.

  • ||

    I hate the term Tea party. Which one? The one that existed when the movement started? Or the one hijacked by Palin and the religious right?

  • Cytotoxic||

    I think a big deal has been made of the second on, more so than the reality deserves.

  • John||

    It is funny how they define "Tea Party Candidate" to mean "any candidate who does something stupid". Akin was not a Tea Party Candidate. He wasn't really anyone's candidate except Carnahan who ran ads for him in the primary. Yet somehow he gets tagged as a Tea Party candidate whatever that is.

    And it is also funny how establishment candidates never seem to do anything stupid. So when Bob Bennett is so out of touch with his constituents he manages to lose as a Republican in Utah, that is the Tea Party's fault for not recognizing Bennett's genius. It would never be his fault for being a crapweasel who managed to fuck up a life time job.

  • Rasilio||

    Well remember, to these guys the biggest tragedy of all is when ANY sitting politician loses an election

  • Drake||

    I thought the new definition of "Tea Party" was any Republican who won't obediently follow their party bosses.

    If you don't embrace their big government policies, pay lip service to the Socons, and all the meaningless BS that comes with it - you aren't a team player.

  • John||

    It is more confusing than that. Akin was an evil SOCON. I thought "Tea Party" meant you didn't play along and admit that anyone who doesn't support fully government funded abortions hated women.

  • ||

    The downfall of the TP was failure to organize and define themselves.

    I get that it's a Romantic notion that the masses rise from the grass to overthrow the evil establishment. BUT, what actually happened was, by failing to define what they stood for, they allowed the left to define them.

    When they began, I thought they stood for 3 things:

    1. Small government
    2. Fiscal Responsibility
    3. Adherence to the Constitution.

    There were certain factions who were saying we need to set social policy aside until our fiscal house was in order. This was the TP I supported.

    By failing to officially declare these as their goals, the media couched them as the most extreme right portion of the Republicans.

    On top of this, socons, like Palin, seeing opportunity to ride the wave, hijacked the movement and introduced social issues into the mix, further supporting the left's claims that the TP WAS nothing more than Republican extremists.

    Opportunity lost!

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Akin's statement about rape pregnancy was extraordinarily stupid. Yes, it was overblown by the media, but seriously, a candidate for high office absolutely cannot make a statement like that (and shouldn't because it's a stupid thing to say).

  • The Late P Brooks||

    We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but

    BUT... by a strange, strange, coincidence they will find themselves propping up sensible bipartisan incumbents, whose many many decades of selfless devotion to the betterment of the Union simply cannot be allowed to be cast aside for some radical bombthrower.

  • John||

    In fairness, Rove did get a lot of Republican incumbents defeated in 2008.

  • Bam!||

    And 2006.

  • Killazontherun||

    If this were a movie, and that movie was Deliverance, the Tea Party would be Burt Reynolds and main stream republicans, represented by Karl Rove, would be Ned Beatty. It's going to replay again in 2014 as it did in 2010 where Burt saves Ned Beatty's dicked ass.

  • ||

    As long as the main stream Republicans get fucked in the ass by a hillbilly dick, I'm fine with that.

  • Killazontherun||

    Me too.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    I like the Tea Party, but the problem with letting the base select someone they're in love with, with no concern of electability, is that it fucks you up in swing states. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and Mike Adams are A-OK in deep red states, but Christie O'Donnell and Murdoch and Todd Akin are going to kill you in swing/blue states.

    That said, I'm sure Rove's intentions are not merely to prevent absurd candidates from being nominated, but to steer the party in a more safely neocon direction.

  • ChrisO||

    Electability is a red herring. Republicans are most successful when they actually stand for something that is different than what the Democrats stand for--even when they don't actually mean it (which is most of the time). Squishes like Romney and cynical triangulators like Rove have rarely been a good recipe for Republican success.

  • GILMORE||

    "The ongoing battle over the GOP's disputed soul..."

    a) Soul? What?
    b) No really, 'Soul'?
    c) ....
    d) um.
    e) ....
    f) Can they even fucking dance? I mean, come the fuck on. I bet they don't even know any Teddy Pendergrass *lyrics*. They'd prefer Travis Tritt to Al Greene.

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