GOP War on Conservatives Backfires

GOP War on Conservatives Backfires

On Friday, every political campaign had to file its 2013 year end report with the FEC. The reports delivered two big surprises. The Democrats are dominating the Republicans in fundraising. More surprising, perhaps, though, is that Tea Party and conservative SuperPACs raised around three times as much as GOP establishment SuperPACs. The DC GOP may have started the war against the Tea Party, but it won’t finish it. 

Not long after their stunning losses in 2012, Karl Rove and other establishment Republicans announced a new effort to engage in primaries to ensure the “right” candidates got the party’s nomination. Rove and the party leadership argued that the party lost because of “flawed”, i.e. too conservative, candidates. There were indeed some flawed candidates in 2012, but far more establishment, “electable” candidates went down to uninspiring defeat. 

The GOP attack on the Tea Party came about for two reasons. The first was to deflect from the massive defeat suffered by Rove and other GOP consultants. Rarely in the history of mankind have so many resources been squandered so spectacularly. Perhaps the more important reason, though, is that the Tea Party movement is becoming a serious thorn in the side of Washington insiders. 

The movement has effectively ended earmarks. It threatens any corporatist giveaway. It calls out cronyism in both parties. It demands that Congress repeals ObamaCare, while business interests would rather “fix” the law to push the obligation for health benefits onto the government. More importantly, though, it wants rational immigration reform that doesn’t simply flood the market with cheap labor as business would desire. 

Whatever strategy the DC GOP is employing, though, is clearly backfiring. All the official Democrat campaign committees collectively raised around $200 million in 2013. The Republican committees raised just over $170 million. This disparity comes when the GOP hold on the House is solid and the party stands a very real chance of taking control of the Senate. It ought to be swimming in donations. The long-standing GOP advantage on fundraising has evaporated. 


The most interesting data from Friday’s reports is the surging financial strength of conservative SuperPACs. Karl Rove’s three SuperPACs collectively raised $6.1 million last year. The Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, where I am Political Director, alone raised $6.4 million. The four largest conservative SuperPACs raised $20 million. GOP establishment SuperPACs raised just over $7 million. 

Donors haven’t stopped giving. They have just stopped giving the Republican party. 

The existential flaw in the party’s self-declared war against conservatives of the Tea Party is that they represent the base of the party. As the Whigs will tell you, a party should not ignore the convictions and sentiments of its most loyal members. 

Keep in mind, this shift away from the GOP to more conservative organizations occurred even before the irrational attempt of GOP leadership to push through an amnesty bill. Conservatives were lectured that the government shutdown was ill-adivsed because it “distracted” from the failures of “ObamaCare.” 

Okay. So, while the country is fully understanding the failures of ObamaCare, the establishment GOP wants to pivot to an issue championed by President Obama and Chuck Schumer? Serious question: Are they trying to blow the midterms?

What is most fascinating about the FEC reports is that is almost no longer matters what the GOP does. There are new people in town. For the last four years they have had the grass-roots. Now, they also have the money. 


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