Another day, another GOP struggle moment…
Via ABC News:
“There is now an out in the open civil war within the Republican Party,” conservative Iowa radio host Steve Deace wrote in a Politico op-ed this week. He’s right. Karl Rove has launched a new group, the Conservative Victory Project, which will aim to select GOP Senate candidates, weeding out future Todd Akins and squashing the prospects of anyone deemed unelectable.
It’s not sitting well with conservatives. Its first purported opponent is Steve King, a very conservative congressman with a history of colorful comments, who may be considering a run for Senate in Iowa. After pantheon of Tea Party campaign groups (The Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and Tea Party Express) bashed the new effort, on Wednesday a cluster of conservative leaders demanded the new organization fire its spokesman, Jonathan Collegio, for calling Brent Bozell, a pundit who runs the conservative Media Research Center, a “hater” in a recent radio interview. Collegio had alleged that Bozell, a critic, has an ax to grind against Rove.
“His attack was not grounded in reason or principle,” they wrote to Stephen F. Law, who will head up the new group. “On behalf of the conservative movement, we are demanding you terminate Mr. Collegio. An apology is not acceptable.” The list of 25 signers included Phyllis Schlafly, Tony Perkins, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin, Manuel Miranda and Richard Viguerie — all big names in the conservative grassroots.
“Rove is no conservative,” Terence Jeffrey, editor in chief of the conservative CNS News, wrote in a pointed editorial. The controversy had reached a fever pitch earlier on Wednesday as Shirley and Bannister, the conservative PR firm representing the new anti-Rove coalition, shopped around unsolicited commentary from a conservative author willing to criticize Rove on the record — a sure sign that the story had attained du jour status.
Collegio has pointed to the conservative candidates the Rove’s super PAC, American Crossroads, has backed, asserting that Crossroads has spent more than any other group to elect Tea Party Senate candidates. Speaking to the ABC/Yahoo! Video series “Top Line” this week, Collegio cited Marco Rubio and Rand Paul as conservative grassroots candidates who enjoyed Rove’s support.
Schisms in outside spending on primaries are nothing new. In several 2012 races, tea partiers and GOP-establishment groups squared off. “That person is walking in with a major bulls eye and major baggage,” Deace said of any candidate backed by the Conservative Victory Project. “We are rapidly approaching the point where you’re almost better off with Barack Obama’s endorsement in a GOP primary than Karl Rove’s.”
It’s not entirely clear whether the group will actually support anyone, and its mission appears more neatly suited to the attack-dog role: finding candidates who can’t win and airing negative ads to crush them, rather than offering endorsements. What will Rove’s new group do? And, whatever it does, will it work?
“One great thing about the Republican Party is it’s a party of ideas, and it’s a marketplace, and we’ll find out if there’s a marketplace for groups like that,” Spiker, the Iowa GOP chair, told ABC News. “I suspect there will be blowback from it, and it may end up being counterproductive in the end.” The GOP has a distant an opportunity to gain Senate seats in 10 states next year, and a realistic chance to pick up about seven. Bad candidates will certainly arise. The trick will be finding them before they self-destruct.