Karl Rove and his group, American Crossroads, set off a firestorm earlier this week when they announced the formation of a new political action committee that would intervene in Republican primaries when there is a conservative primary challenger present. American Crossroads has been in damage control mode due to the reaction of prominent figures in the conservative movement.
Of course, the new PAC is based on a false premise. Establishment candidates aren’t losing in Republican primaries for lack of spending money to get out their message — they’re losing because of their message. You don’t win a GOP primary by running on soft, middle of the road rhetoric. You win by, as Ronald Reagan once said, raising the banner of bold colors.
Kelleyanne Conway recently wrote a great editoral in USA Today about Rove’s new PAC, noting that people like Rove can complain all they want about conservatives who lost in races that they should’ve won, but there were even more failures by candidates who had mainstream GOP backing:
For outside groups such as American Crossroads’ reinvented “Conservative Victory Fund” to intervene in races is not new. It was attempted just last year, and with spectacular failure. Conservative senate candidate in Missouri Todd Akin and his Indiana counterpart Richard Mourdock are the easy soundbites from the 2012 GOP losses, but those memorable names hide many more failed Senate candidates who had all the king’s horses and all the king’s men — and all the king’s money — and lost: Josh Mandel (Ohio), Connie Mack (Fla.), Denny Rehberg (Mont.), Rick Berg (N.D.), Heather Wilson (N.M.), Tommy Thompson (Wis.), George Allen (Va.), Linda McMahon (Conn.) and Linda Lingle (Hawaii).
Conway also explains that intervention in Republican primaries with the sole goal of “clearing the field” or otherwise scaring off more conservative challengers “robs the voters of their right to choose.”
Rove and company may be poised and ready to spend for their handpicked candidates, but look at 2012 for a moment. American Crossroads spent $175 million last year and they have next to nothing to show for it. They can throw money into a race and take on conservative candidates if they want, but based on their track record, they should probably be prepared to lose.
Voters — especially Republican primary voters — don’t want blurred lines and watered down choices. They don’t want someone who is merely “less bad” than the Democrat. They want someone who comes the closest to what they believe. This isn’t George W. Bush’s GOP anymore. The Bush-era, a symbol of a big-government GOP that Rove helped craft, is headed out the door.