Last week, Karl Rove and American Crossroads raised eyebrows by launching a new political action committee (PAC) aimed at helping so-called “electable conservatives” in primary battles. The news was met with admonition from conservative groups that have helped more fiscally conservative primary challengers, such as Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio.
Another shot was recently fired from the establishment, this time by Haley Barbour, former Governor of Mississippi and a fundraiser for American Crossroads. Robert Costa of National Review reported yesterday that Barbour specifically targeted the Club for Growth during a recent talk at Mount Vernon:
Last week, at a closed-door retreat in northern Virginia, Barbour told a large gathering of congressional staffers, including several leadership aides, that party officials should discourage donors from funding the high-profile conservative group.
“We kicked away four or five Senate seats in the last two cycles by nominating candidates who did not have the best chance to win,” he says. “We ought to talk to Republican donors now, in the off-season before the primaries, and discourage them from donating to organizations that will attack good Republicans.”
“Republican groups like the Club for Growth should stop spending money to defeat Republicans,” he adds. “Politics can’t be about purity. Unity wins in politics, purity loses.”
The Club for Growth wasted no time in responding to the report. “Haley Barbour is a good guy,” Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said in a statement released yesterday afternoon. “When he was thinking of running for President, he was more than pleased to attend the Club for Growth’s winter economic conference, and he had nothing but nice things to say about us. Now that he’s back to his more familiar roles as a lobbyist and Republican Party insider, he is singing a different tune. That’s politics.”
Chocola proudly proclaimed, “The truth is, while the Club for Growth PAC has helped elect more Republicans to Congress than just about any other group, our mission and Haley Barbour’s mission are just plain different.”
“Haley wants every Republican to win, regardless of how they vote in office. The Club for Growth PAC helps elect candidates who support limited government and free markets,” Chocola added. “Unfortunately, the two goals coincide less often than the Republican Establishment cares to admit.”
In Barbour’s view, political power is more important than electing people who are going to do the right thing. He wants Republicans to get in line and not question party leaders in Congress even where they’re clearly wrong. To be sure, there does need to be a certain level of unity, but is it worth dying on a hill when Republicans haven’t proven that they worth fighting for.