Rove's Conservative Victory Project will target fellow Republicans whom Rove and company feel threaten the party's Senate chances in 2014. Experts worry this is the wrong approach to strengthening the Republican Party.
After suffering a decisive defeat in the 2012 presidential election, what's next for the GOP, you might ask?
According to The New York Times, some GOP brass, led by George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove, are setting their sights on redefining the party and flushing out its radical elements in a bid to win Senate control in 2014.
Republicans need six seats to gain a majority, and they've started a controversial new super PAC, the Conservative Victory Project (CVP), to ensure that far-right candidates and Tea Partiers don't alienate moderate voters like they did in 2012, when comments about rape by GOP candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock contributed to both being defeated by Democrats in their respective Senate races.
"There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected," Steven J. Law, who will be creating the CVP, told the Times.
"We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win," he added.
Law, president of Rove's other super PAC, American Crossroads, stressed to the Times that the CVP wouldn't be afraid to intervene in primary elections. He seeks for his group to employ hard-edged tactics like airing television ads directed against Republican candidates whom party leaders feel threaten the GOP's attempt to win back the Senate.
Specifically, Law told the Times that the new group would be taking a close look at the 2014 Senate race in Iowa, where Democrat Tom Harkin's retirement in 2015 has opened up the first Senate seat in that state since 1974. The potential candidacy of six-term Rep. Steven King (R-Iowa) concerns Law and the CVP. In the past, King has made incendiary comments comparing illegal immigrants to dogs and Capitol Hill maintenance workers to "Stasi troops" after they were directed to install environmentally friendly light bulbs.
Law called King's comments a "Todd Akin problem" and said they would be "hung around his neck" during a campaign.
In response, King told the Times that the decision should be up to the voters, not staffers in Washington. He counteracted Law's claims by citing his victory in last year's election amid turmoil and heavy Democratic spending against him.
Some Republican strategists say Rove and the CVP are misidentifying what's aching the Republican Party and frivolously throwing money at the wrong plague.
Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow studying public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, believes Law and Rove are jumping the gun in pinning the blame on GOP politicians associated with more radical elements of the party. Instead, she says major pollster data from CBS News, Gallup, The New York Times and other organizations shows that Tea Party support has not waned significantly.
"Polls show Tea Party support," she told MSN News. "The notion that that Tea Party has lost ground in public opinion just isn’t true."
"You just don’t see significant changes with major pollsters."
She also disagrees with the CVP's potential strike against Rep. King. The GOP congressman, she points out, has proven us wrong before, and politics is anything but a predictable game.
"Voters in high-profile contests surprise us in different ways," she said. "King won a tough race in a conservative state."
Jonathan Bydlak, president of the non-partisan political advocacy group Coalition to Reduce Spending, which focuses on limiting federal spending, and also fundraising director for former Texas Rep. Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign, took a more hostile approach to the CVP's attempt to maim its own. Specifically, Bydlak criticized Rove and said that by favoring establishment Republicans over grassroots favorites, his new super PAC was missing the real issue: the economy.
"They have to talk about pocketbook issues in a convincing way," Bydlak told MSN News. "They talk a big game about economic issues but they don’t do a good job of articulating their views in a way that explains why these views are good for society at large."
Specifically, Bydlak cites two polls to explain why he feels reductions in federal spending will resonate with voters in 2014: a December Rasmussen Report that found three-quarters of Americans favor spending reductions to heal the economy and a January Reason-Rupe poll that discovered 49 percent of Americans support returning to Clinton-era spending levels.
"Republicans need to talk about fiscal issues and be serious about them," Bydlak stressed.
Instead of effectively expressing why economic issues matter, Bydlak believes Rove is attempting to purchase votes at the expense of real ideology.
"Rove is thinking about this solely through a party lens rather than what is best for the country," Bydlak said.
"For most conservatives, it's principle above party. For Rove, it's other way around," he said.
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