Imagine this: Karl Rove, alias “Turd Blossom” in George W. Bush’s infelicitous phrase, on his white horse riding to the rescue of the Republican Party.
Only the Republican Party does not want to be rescued.
Rove, of course, hardly seems to fit the image of the GOP’s White Knight, given his track record in the 2012 elections in which the former Bush adviser separated more than $300 million from Republican donors, only to see most of his candidates lose. According to the Sunlight Foundation, Rove’s two super PACs earned a one percent and a 14 percent return on investment.
Rove’s big money backers are used to a better return on their money than that.
But a lack of chutzpah has never been a Rovian fault, so Rove has donned his armor and girded for battle again, this time forming a new super Pac, the Conservative Victory Project, pledged to enter Republican primaries in 2014 to support “electable” candidates.
Rove has a point: There is no question that being what Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal calls “the stupid party” cost Republicans a number of Senate seats in the last two elections. Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Todd Akin in Missouri snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last year by their bizarre and ill-informed comments on rape, and two years earlier, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada, among others, squandered excellent Republican chances to win.
Primaries rather than general elections are often the main event these days, given the distribution of the current electorate. Primaries place a premium on the participation of committed voters, who frequently are politically extreme. The result for the GOP is an ideologically pure candidate who can’t win the general election.
Rove wants to change that. He claims he merely wants to better position the Republican Party: “This is not tea party versus establishment. I don’t want a fight.”
Yet a fight he has, with tea party leaders and media commentators pushing back, saying Rove and his allies in the GOP establishment are the problem, not the solution.
The fissures are deep. According to David Bossie, president of the conservative group Citizens United, the civil war in the Republican Party has begun. “This battle,” he says, “will be a long, hard slog against the establishment.”
And Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, the ultraconservative organization that has backed many right-wing primary candidates, says: “It’s those pesky voters. They get to decide who the nominee is.” And in primaries, the nominee often is on the far right of the political spectrum.
Stephen Law, who will run Rove’s latest effort, counters: “There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected. We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.”
Some in the GOP claim the problem isn’t too conservative candidates or candidates not conservative enough, but rather a failure to reach voters with the proper message. Tweak the message by removing the rough edges, so the argument goes, but leave the core arguments intact, and Republicans will win.
It’s an argument that may explain Marco Rubio’s rising star. The junior senator from Florida has been selected to give the response this evening to President Obama’s State of the Union Address because he’s Hispanic, favors some kind of immigration reform, and is an articulate spokesman. And oh, yes, he’s a tea party darling who hans’t alienated the establishment.
All of which ignores what recent elections have shown: Voters no longer are buying what Republicans are selling. The problem for the GOP isn’t the message; it’s the product.
It’s only going to get worse. Demography reveals part of the GOP’s problem: A failure to attract Hispanics, the nation’s fastest growing segment. And now polls show that young voters embrace the Democratic view of the proper size and scope of the federal government. A New York Times/CBS News poll reveals that 59 percent of Americans aged 18-29 believe government should do more to solve problems, while only 35 percent of those over 65 agree on the role of government.
That doesn’t auger well for a party favoring limited government.
Posted February 12, 2013