Karl Rove vs. the Tea Party


Loving the smell of victory

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.

The Establishment's initial favorite vs. Marco Rubio

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: