If I were launching a new conservative venture, the last venue I’d choose for the announcement would be the New York Times. Karl Rove has gone to the Times to announce that he has created a new “conservative” entity “to recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts.”
Rove argues that Republican fortunes have been ruined by “far-right conservatives,” but he’s shamelessly calling this entity the “Conservative Victory Project.” Yes, and I could call myself Ray Lewis, but it doesn’t make it so.
Whaddaya know. The liberal Democrats at the Times love this idea. They call it “the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense of discipline on the party.” They would love a group to “discipline” conservatives right out of the GOP nominating process. What the heck? They could call themselves “conservative,” too.
It’s reminiscent of all the reporters who desperately wanted Colin Powell to run for president in 1996 because apparently Bob Dole was too fringy and as Howard Fineman said at the time, reporters “want a Republican Party they can live with.”
Only at the end of the Times story does a fraction of balance appear, when Grover Norquist is delicately quoted on how establishment candidates did not win in Montana (Rep. Denny Rehberg) or North Dakota (Rep. Rick Berg). That list is very incomplete.
Rove & Co. should also revisit how establishment moderates fared in other Senate races. Former governor Linda Lingle lost in Hawaii. Former governor Tommy Thompson lost in Wisconsin. Two-time self-funding Senate contender Linda McMahon lost in Connecticut. Sen. Scott Brown lost in Massachusetts. Five-term Congresswoman Heather Wilson lost her second Senate campaign in New Mexico. Chris Christie’s 2009 campaign chairman Joe Kyrillos lost in New Jersey.
So how many moderate GOP challengers won in 2012? Not one. How many Tea Party conservatives? Three.
The New York Times quoted Rove staffer Steven Law on their alleged philosophy: “Our approach will be to institutionalize the Buckley rule: Support the most conservative candidate who can win.” Uh-huh. So that’s what Rove was doing when he supported Sen. Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey in 2004. Before that term was over, Specter became a Democrat. That’s what moderates were doing when they supported Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio in Florida in 2010. Crist, too, became a Democrat.
The Times did not explore Steven Law’s win-loss record. As executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 1998 and 2000, Law’s work ended up with zero gains in 1998 and four seats lost in 2000. The Times didn’t want to remind anyone how Rove “the Architect” predicted in 2006 that the GOP would retain control of both houses of Congress, and he proceeded to lose them both.
Wouldn’t that information help the public evaluate just how much the Republicans need Team Rove’s new “discipline” to win?
When it comes to winning, they supported Sen. Robert Bennett over Mike Lee (who won the seat) in Utah. The GOP moderates preferred Lt. Gov David Dewhurst over Ted Cruz in Texas in 2012. The list seems endless.
These candidates are not the ones that journalists want the public to remember. Instead, the national media gorged itself on 2012 Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments on abortion and “legitimate rape.” This is where media bias on deciding what is a gaffe (and what is not) matters. It was never a gaffe when Senate candidate Barack Obama ran in 2004 (and 2008, and 2012) after having voted four times in the Illinois Senate to allow abortions after the “fetus” became a baby outside the womb. Absolutely nobody with a press pass found that idea ideologically extreme or scientifically bizarre.
I don’t remember Rove making an ad about that extremism, but Rove and the Times have already settled on Iowa Congressman Steve King as the potential Akin of 2014 if he runs for the Senate. The Times repeated Democrat opposition research, that King had compared illegal immigrants to bird dogs and that King denounced Nancy Pelosi and her “Stasi troops” for insisting on eco-friendly light bulbs and other federal mandates.
In the end, this is not a fight between Democrats and Republicans. This is between the Reaganites and the same old moderate Republicans who insisted Ronald Reagan was far too extreme to be elected in 1976 and then in 1980, when Rove worked for George H. W. Bush. They thought the Doles and McCains were always the smart money against the Democrats. It’s a fight between Republicans who want to not only run as conservatives, but govern as conservatives, versus the Bush-Boehner-McConnell never-mind approach.
Conservatism is in no way synonymous with defeat, and “conservative victory” isn’t even attempted by those who were never conservatives to begin with.