Karl Rove's American Crossroads has started a new group to make sure the 2014 Senate races produce zero Todd Akins. But it turns out some conservatives like Rove less than Akin. The Conservative Victory Project will spend money in Republican primaries to defeat far-right candidates, The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny reported this weekend. Republicans like Rove see Republicans like Akin, who failed to beat vulnerable Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, and Richard Mourdock, who knocked off Indiana's Sen. Richard Lugar in the GOP primary but failed to win the general election in a state that Mitt Romney won by 10 points, are costing the party winnable Senate seats. The backlash was immediate.
One primary the Conservative Victory Project is looking at is the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa. Rep. Steve King, who has a history of making controversial statements, is reportedly interested in the race. "We’re concerned about Steve King’s Todd Akin problem," American Crossroads' Steven J. Law told The Times. "This is an example of candidate discipline and how it would play in a general election. All of the things he’s said are going to be hung around his neck."
But conservatives noted that establishment Republicans who didn't talk about rape lost, too. The Senate Conservatives Fund's Matt Hoskins told Politico the Crossroads group was the "Conservative Defeat Project." Free Republic posters mocked "Tokyo Rove." On Breitbart.com, Ben Shapiro called Rove and his cohorts, "The Bush insider team that helped lead to the rise of Barack Obama." RedState editor Erick Erickson said the Conservative Victory Project was sure to pick losers. "I dare say any candidate who gets this group’s support should be targeted for destruction by the conservative movement." Erickson wrote. "They’ve made it really easy not to figure out who the terrible candidates will be in 2014." In another post at RedState, Daniel Horowitz warned of an enemy within under the headline "The Snakes in the GOP Grass":
One by one, people like Karl Rove seek to crush another sacred belief of the conservative base. All social issues? Gone. Enforcement before amnesty? No way. Stay strong on taxes? Forget about it. Fight Obamacare? That’s a done deal...
In this battle, we must distinguish friend from foe. It is a battle we did not initiate, but it is one we must win.
The conservatives are right that many establishment picks lost in 2012, too: North Dakota's Rick Berg, Montana's Denny Rehberg. In Connecticut, a doorhanger ad for Linda McMahon said, "President Obama and Linda McMahon will fight for us." She lost. But all of the conservative positions listed by Horowitz -- opposition to Obamacare, gay marriage, lax immigration laws, higher taxes -- were held by the most important establishment pick of all: Mitt Romney. It's possible the GOP's problem is not just about style.