The controversy surrounding Karl Rove’s Conservative Victory Project, the new super PAC designed, according to the New York Times, 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 effort to win control of the Senate.” Elections guru Nate Silver now writes in the pages of the Times that Rove’s endorsement of candidates may actually backfire on those candidates, since Rove is perceived as an establishment insider. Money, says Silver, isn’t the deciding factor in Tea Party vs. establishment primaries – perception of conservatism is. Writes Silver:
[T]he overall message from the data should be reasonably clear. The establishment candidates substantially outraised the insurgents, by an average of $4.3 million to $1.2 million based on the last Federal Election Commission reports that the candidates filed in advance of the primary. (The difference in median fund-raising totals, which reduces the influence of outliers, is just as substantial: about $3 million for the establishment candidates versus about $400,000 for the insurgents.) And yet, the insurgent candidates won 11 of 23 races, or nearly half the contests.
Silver points out that if Rove is seen as having backed an establishment candidate against a Tea Party candidate, the establishment candidate could pay a heavy electoral price. Good examples include newly-minted Senator Ted Cruz, who was opposed by establishment-supported David Dewhurst in the Texas primaries, but won handily. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is another candidate who would undoubtedly benefit from Rove’s opposition to his Senate candidacy – he currently leads in the primary polling.
Meanwhile, Tea Party groups are mobilizing in opposition to the Conservative Victory Project’s stated goals. Jenny Beth Martin, founder of Tea Party Patriots, said, “He sounds like he’s challenging us, and we’re ready to rise to the challenge … I’m going to be engaging with the donors over the next several weeks to let them know what we’re doing and to show them that we can do what the Republican Party is not doing right now, which is building a ground game.”
Rove’s position as an establishment apparatchik has been minted over the past several years; in 2012, he reportedly even intervened with Komen for the Cure to encourage them to reinstate funding for Planned Parenthood as they came under assault from the Obama left. Before that, Rove’s position as the architect of a disastrous Bush second term that focused largely on socialistic spending schemes and a befuddled regulatory policy paved the way for Barack Obama’s ascent to power.
Rove says he isn’t interested in internecine warfare. Obviously, conservatives hope that’s the case. But if he begins to intervene in primaries by backing establishment types rather than helping to identify the best Tea Party candidates, Conservative Victory Project may become a net loser.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the book “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).