If repeat business is the top sign of a success, then Karl Rove is now the poster boy for campaign strategy failure.
According to a report by Gabriel Sherman in New York Magazine, Rove’s fund raising for the 2016 campaign is currently at less than 1 per cent of what he ended up with in 2012, and indications are it’s not going to get much better. Do the math: he’s down more than 99 percent. Even if he eventually raises ten fold what he’s pulled in so far, he’s still likely to be down 90 percent plus.
That’s because many of his previous benefactors are seething with anger over the 2012 failure.
This has to do not only with the electoral disaster – which was obvious – but also with the arrogance with which Rove and the other sorcerers of Crossroads raised and spent money, how they insisted on controlling the messaging, and all but guaranteed a win as a result. According to a conversation I had with someone close to Sheldon Adelson, Rove even let it be known that there was no room for other Super PACs to join the Romney effort – after Romney had dispatched Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
They insisted on using their wizardry – and their brilliance only. That’s the height of arrogance. And how did that work out again?
Ken Langone – who knows a thing or two about repeat customer success as a co-founder of Home Depot – is in the big majority of former Rove donors who have shut off the spigot. “I had every expectation we would be the victors,” Langone told Sherman. Langone gave half a million dollars to Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC in support of Mitt Romney.
And why not? According to Sherman, “in the closing weeks of the campaign, Crossroads circulated a top-secret presentation to a small group of billionaires that projected Romney could win a “mandate” if they contributed an additional total of $25 million to fund a ‘surge’ of negative ads.” So confident of victory was Rove and Crossroads that they hosted a planned victory celebration in Boston attended by some of the big donors.
Instead, all they saw was Rove’s now infamous Fox News meltdown. Many voters remember the egg Rove had on his face in light of his predictions going down in flames – but that was merely a misdemeanor – because the real felony was the copious amount of money he spent in a failed effort to unseat the most pathetic of incumbent Presidents. According to Sherman, it felt “like a mugging” to many of the big donors.
So angry was New York hedge-fund manager Daniel Loeb, who had written some of those late surge mandate checks, that he wanted to sue Crossroads (and Fox News) for misrepresenting the facts. According to Sherman, Loeb looked at this as investment fraud. He never filed suit because the law looks at this differently – but it’s a good gauge of how livid donors were and how duped they felt.
So if Rove and Crossroads were the worst investment of money (and faith) in the 2012 cycle – you don’t have to go far from the Rove consultant tree to find out who is almost certainly going to be the pariah in 2015-16. That would be the insufferably pompous Mike Murphy.
According to Sherman, “the candidate who has underperformed the most is the one with a 2012-style campaign, who steered all his major donors into one super-pac. That organization, Right to Rise USA, is run by the grizzled strategist Mike Murphy, who succeeded in bundling a $100 million war chest and is now finding himself on the receiving end of donor backlash.”
So, 100 million big ones – and Jeb is at what, 3 percent? Maybe 5-6 on a good day?
According to mega donor John Jordan, who now supports Sen. Marco Rubio, “the quality of ads produced by most of the ad-makers is just so bad that they’re ineffective. Have you looked at Jeb’s ads? They’re terrible! It’s unforgivable.”
Murphy had outlined his (failing) strategy in an interview with Bloomberg – after which a group of major Jeb supporters held a conference call to vent their frustration. However, the donors are now doing more than merely venting.
In my 2013 book I urged the donors to stop investing their millions with Rove and other establishment consultants. Now in light of continued failures, the donors are indeed changing the entire Super PAC paradigm. We will outline how this is taking place in the next installment.
This is the 8th installment of Rove-Stupid: The New Definition of the Republican Establishment. Read the rest here.
Edmund Wright is a contributor to Breitbart, American Thinker, Newsmax TV, Talk Radio Network – and author of Amazon Elections Best Seller WTF? How Karl Rove and the Establishment Lost…Again.