Skip to main content

Rove at center of GOP family feud

By Kevin Bohn, CNN Senior Producer
updated 7:28 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
A group affiliated with Karl Rove is creating a new super PAC focused on GOP primaries.
A group affiliated with Karl Rove is creating a new super PAC focused on GOP primaries.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • American Crossroads has formed a new super PAC to focus on GOP congressional primaries
  • New super PAC's goal is to help primary candidates who have best chance to win general elections
  • Some conservatives has spoken out against the new project as a tool of the GOP establishment
  • New super PAC is affiliated with Karl Rove, the well-known GOP strategist

Washington (CNN) -- Some Republicans see Karl Rove as a political genius, masterminding winning campaigns at every level on the ballot, including the White House. Others call him a "fake conservative" and a symbol of what's wrong with the party.

Cantor wants to give GOP a message makeover

A Rove-affiliated super PAC's efforts to push what it believes will be more electable congressional candidates -- and the backlash it has created -- is symbolic of the battle for the soul of the GOP.

The uproar is in response to American Crossroads forming a new super PAC called the Conservative Victory Project, which says its aim is to improve the GOP's record in congressional races.

The group wants to institutionalize the rule of the late conservative activist William F. Buckley and to nominate "the most conservative candidate in the primary who can win the general election," according to Victory Project spokesman Jonathan Collegio.

Republican Party's "civil war"
Cantor sets out to improve GOP image
Cantor: GOP direction not American worry
Jindal lays out GOP strategy
Priebus: GOP has to be a 'happy party'
Republicans look for party's future
Jindal lays out GOP strategy
Is the Tea Party dead?

"Our party has lost at least six Senate races in the last two election cycles not because of conservative ideas but because of undisciplined candidates and subpar campaigns," Collegio told CNN.

"We want to elect conservative candidates to the House and Senate," he added. "But we have to win general elections."

Jindal urges GOP to stop being 'stupid'

As he does with other Crossroads groups, former George W. Bush strategist Rove will advise this new organization, which will be led by Steven Law, the president of both American Crossroads and its advocacy sister Crossroads GPS.

But some in the tea party wing of the party say the group's aim is to elect more moderate Republicans. One tea party group declared in an email solicitation: "Karl Rove has declared war" on the movement..."Our response. BRING IT!"

Opinion: What the tea party cost the GOP

Some conservative activists think the Conservative Victory Project organizers really aim to elect more establishment candidates who are not conservative enough -- a charge the group's leaders vehemently deny.

On Tuesday conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham criticized the Victory Project's Law, who was a guest on her show, for specifically highlighting losses by tea party candidates last year.

Law said his groups have backed tea party candidates as well as establishment ones and that the Victory Project's aim is not to go after one group but to field the most competitive candidates possible.

There was widespread dismay from some within the party after losses in the general election by such Senate candidates as Sharron Angle in Nevada in 2010 and Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana last year.

All three were initially favored and strongly supported by tea party activists. They won primaries against candidates who experts thought had a better chance of capturing the general election. Their losses were at least partly blamed on comments they made that seemed out of the mainstream.

While Law told Ingraham "we are interested in improving the process," conservative activists believe the organizers will harm the party instead.

"These fake conservatives need to go away before they do more damage," is how ForAmerica Chairman Brent Bozell put it.

Another activist derided the group as ensuring defeat for the party.

"The Conservative Defeat Project is yet another example of the Republican establishment's hostility towards its conservative base," Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund group, said in a statement on Sunday. "Rather than listening to the grassroots and working to advance their principles, the establishment has chosen to declare war on its party's most loyal supporters."

SCF, which works to push conservative candidates, backed Ted Cruz, Deb Fischer and Jeff Flake in their successful Senate races last year.

Besides its aversion to the Victory Project's intent, Rove's involvement is also an issue.

"TPPatriots want to save USA. Karl Rove wants to line pockets-Don't Tread on Us! Tea Party bites back-never gives up!" Tea Party Patriots national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin tweeted over the weekend.

The Crossroads groups themselves didn't fare a lot better than the tea party groups in 2012, as most of their favored Senate candidates ended up losing -- and Rove got some of the blame.

Some conservatives point out that along with Akin and Mourdock, many mainstream candidates lost, too, like Rep. Denny Rehberg of Montana, Rep. Rick Berg of North Dakota and former Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico.

Victory Project organizers have started reaching out to their financial backers, some of whom were uneasy about getting in the middle of an intra-party fights. That's why they formed separately.

"Some donors are concerned about primaries where many are concerned exclusively about the general election," Collegio said.

The group will make its decisions on whom to back based on research about candidates' positions, their fundraising power and their ability to organize and run an effective campaign.

It will not recruit candidates nor coordinate with party leaders. It will disclose its donors.

One race it could get involved is in West Virginia, where Rep. Shelley Moore Capito had already announced her decision to run for the Senate even before incumbent Sen. Jay Rockefeller announced that he was going to retire.

Capito, who is in her seventh term, is viewed as a formidable candidate with a strong fundraising base.

However, several conservative groups, including the Senate Conservatives Fund, already have come out against her, calling her record "liberal" and saying she supported too much government spending.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 2:18 AM EST, Fri February 8, 2013
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
ADVERTISEMENT