Two powerful conservative groups say a new American Crossroads' initiative, formed to work against Republican candidates it deems unelectable, is just another attempt to muzzle the GOP's true base.
American Crossroads, a super PAC founded by a group led by former Bush White House advisor Karl Rove, was the largest Republican super PAC of the 2012 election cycle. The idea behind the PAC's latest effort is to intensely vet prospective contenders for Congressional races to weed out candidates who are seen as too flawed to win general elections, The New York Times reported Sunday.
The new organization, the Conservative Victory Project, was formed because “there is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected,” American Crossroads President Steven Law told Politico.
Law and others want to avoid what has become known as the "Todd Akin problem" in some GOP circles. Republicans lost two high-profile Senate battles last year in which their candidate had expressed controversial views on social issues.
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Then-Representative Todd Akin had been a favorite to take a Senate seat representing Missouri before commenting on TV that pregnancy rarely occurs in the case of "legitimate rape".
Rove and other senior Republican figures called on him to step down from the campaign, but he refused to do so. The resulting backlash from, in particular, female voters saw him lose a seat that many party officials believed was very winnable.
In Indiana, Republican candidate Richard Mourdock lost the Senate battle after suggesting that rape was "something God intended to happen".
But the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund, both of which boost candidates on the right, said the new group — which they mockingly nicknamed the “Conservative Defeat Project,” is 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,” said Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund.
SCF, which works to push tea party-leaning conservative candidates, backed Ted Cruz, Deb Fischer and Jeff flake in their successful Senate races last year. It was founded in 2008 by then-Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, becoming an independent PAC in July, 2012.
"The Conservative Defeat Project is... a continuation of the establishment's effort to avoid blame for their horrible performance in the 2012 elections," Hoskins added.
"They blew a ton of races up and down the ticket because they recruited moderate Republicans who didn't stand for anything. Now they want to use this new PAC to trick donors into giving them more money so they can lose more races."
Tea Party Patriots national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin tweeted: "TPPatriots want to save USA. Karl Rove wants to line pockets-Don't Tread on Us! Tea Party bites back-never gives up!"
The First Things' "Postmodern Conservative" blog blasted Rove in a column on Sunday.
"The 'establishment' candidates aren’t losing because of a lack of money, and giving Karl Rove more bucks won’t lead to better Republican Senate candidacies anymore than the $300 million that Rove raised and spent in 2012 helped Republicans win the presidency and pick up Senate seats," blogger Pete Spiliakos wrote.
He advised Republican donors to "stop giving money to super-PACs who will spend the money on thirty second ads designed to win elections in 1988. All you are doing is making old school Republican consultants even more rich without their even having to think through the specific problems of our time."
Barney Keller, spokesman for Club for Growth, said many conservative insurgents have emerged as influential GOP leaders.
“They are welcome to support the likes of Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist and David Dewhurst,” Keller said of the new Crossroads group. “We will continue to proudly support the likes of Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.”
The tea party-influenced groups spent millions of dollars in 2012 to boost candidates, but American Crossroads was the heaviest spender. However, it did not get involved in nomination fights — something that's changing this spring as it gets involved in competitive races starting to take shape.
Grover Norquist, who leads Americans for Tax Reform, a fiscally conservative advocacy group that plays a role in Republican primary races, told The New York Times it was incorrect to suggest that candidates backed by Tea Party groups were the only ones to lose, pointing to establishment Republicans in North Dakota and Montana who also lost their races last year.
“People are imagining a problem that doesn’t exist,” Mr. Norquist told the Times. “We’ve had people challenge the establishment guy and do swimmingly.”
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