Tea Party and the Right  
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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.

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: