Karl Rove Not The King He Once Was

Washington, DC

As the New York Times reports, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads long sat at the top of the GOP political food chain. It dominated through three presidential election cycles, but “in the early days of the 2016 presidential campaign, Crossroads … has been buffeted by a rapidly changing political landscape that is testing its pre-eminence, and potentially its survival.”

Not only is it facing possible IRS problems, the environment today is also increasingly competitive. Rove isn’t Jeb Bush’s fair haired bald guy, as he was former president George W’s. However, it may also be hard to imagine Crossroads going all in on a non-Bush, given its ties to the former president.

The nonprofit arm of Crossroads is facing an Internal Revenue Service review that could eviscerate its fund-raising. Data projects nurtured by Mr. Rove are being supplanted in Republican circles by a more successful initiative funded by the Koch political network, which has leapfrogged the Crossroads organizations in size and reach.

And the group faces intense competition for donors from a new wave of “super PACs” that are being set up by backers of the leading Republican candidates for president, who are unwilling to defer to Mr. Rove’s authority or cede strategic and fund-raising dominance to the organizations he helped start.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, Crossroads seems to be playing down expectations, as well as its intended role. How that will jibe with a Rove so enamored with himself he once had a “hissy fit” on Fox News when the network correctly called the race for Obama in 2012, remains to be seen.

If the group’s role seems diminished, Crossroads officials are not complaining publicly. If anything, they are lowering expectations for an organization that raised $300 million in the 2012 cycle.

“Our goal is not to make American Crossroads the big dog of 2016,” Mr. Law said in an interview. “Our goal is to win the White House and hold the Senate and the House.”

He added that in the large field of Republican groups and campaigns, “we’re a first baseman who effectively plays our position.”

“We’re a critical player,” he said, “but part of the team.”

So much for Rove’s war on the Tea Party from 2013. At this rate, the conservative GOP grassroots may not have Karl Rove to kick around much longer.