The biggest donors in the GOP are using their considerable financial ammunition to take aim at members of their own party. According to Jeff Zeleny at The New York Times, a new group, the Conservative Victory Project, has been created to help organize opposition to far-right conservative candidates who may derail Republican efforts to win back the Senate. Says Zeleny:
The Conservative Victory Project, which is backed by Karl Rove and his allies who built American Crossroads into the largest Republican super PAC of the 2012 election cycle, will start by intensely vetting prospective contenders for Congressional races to try to weed out candidates who are seen as too flawed to win general elections.
The project is being waged with last year's Senate contests in mind, particularly the one in Missouri, where Representative Todd Akin's comment that "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy rippled through races across the country. In Indiana, the Republican candidate, Richard E. Mourdock, lost a race after he said that when a woman became pregnant during a rape it was "something God intended." [The New York Times]
The Conservative Victory Project is already focusing on Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a controversial conservative whom polls show with a lead in a potential primary matchup for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D). "We're concerned about Steve King's Todd Akin problem," Steven J. Law, the president of American Crossroads, told the Times. The Conservative Victory Project is also expected to be involved in the open race to replace another retiring senator, Saxby Chambliss (R) of Georgia.
By most counts, Republicans lost six Senate races in the last two election cycles because they fielded candidates who were too conservative or otherwise unpalatable to the general electorate. However, conservative groups are bristling at Rove's attempt to tip the scales into the primary process with negative advertising and more. According to Alexander Burns at Politico:
Both the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund — two of the most prominent groups that have boosted candidates on the right — mocked the new initiative as yet another hapless establishment-side attempt to muzzle the GOP base.
Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, branded it the "Conservative Defeat Project."
"The Conservative Defeat Project is yet another example of the Republican establishment's hostility toward its conservative base. Rather than listening to the grassroots and working to advance their principles, the establishment has chosen to declare war on the party's most loyal supporters," Hoskins said. "If they keep this up, the party will remain in the wilderness for decades to come." [Politico]
Conservatives point out that establishment-backed candidates lost close elections in North Dakota and Montana in the last election, while several rising stars in the Senate, such as Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Texas), came up through the Tea Party. Furthermore, they blame Rove — as well as his patron, George W. Bush — for the mess the GOP currently finds itself in. As James Antle at The Daily Caller writes:
Thanks to the quagmire in Iraq and second-term Bushie bumbling, Democrats retook Congress in 2006 and enlarged their majorities in 2008. Despite a unified country after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the most Republican federal government since Hoover was president, Bush's legacy was nation-building, budget-busting deficits, bigger spending than Bill Clinton, bailing out the Wall Street banks, and Katrina.
The Iraq war, with its missing weapons of mass destruction, destroyed a Republican advantage on foreign policy that existed since Richard Nixon trounced George McGovern. The financial meltdown at the end of the Bush presidency was the final nail in the coffin for GOP credibility on the economy gained during Ronald Reagan's boom years...
When trying to determine what ails the GOP, Bush-Rove Republicans should look in the mirror. [The Daily Caller]
Indeed, judging by the angry response to the Conservative Victory Project in some quarters of the conservative world, it seems that the group has so far proved more adept at dividing the party than unifying it around electable candidates. And there's no indication that the group's deep pockets will have any effect: Rove's American Crossroads super PAC was a spectacular failure in the 2012 election, winning only 30 percent of the contests it participated in. Rove's abysmal success rate has been gleefully pointed out by his opponents. As Erick Erickson at Red State says, "Thank God they are behind this. In 2012, they spent hundreds of millions of rich donors' money and had jack to show for it."
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