The news that former Bush administration adviser Karl Rove is launching an effort to keep less-electable conservative Republicans from winning primaries has stirred up anger on the right.
The Conservative Victory Project, first reported on by the New York Times, is a direct response to the 2012 elections, when the National Republican Senatorial Committee stayed out of primaries and saw conservative candidates such as Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock lose winnable races.
“The Conservative Defeat Project is yet another example of the Republican establishment’s hostility toward its conservative base,” said Matt Hoskins of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a PAC launched by (but no longer affiliated with) former senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).
“I dare say any candidate who gets this group’s support should be targeted for destruction by the conservative movement,” wrote RedState’s Erick Erickson.
“These fake conservatives need to go away before they do more damage,” said L.Brent Bozell, founder of the conservative Media Research Center.
Erickson also noted that the establishment did not have a great track record in 2012 either. American Crossroads, the super PAC behind the new project, supported no winning candidates in last year’s election, according to a Sunlight Foundation analysis. Only 1.29 percent of the group’s money went to opposing candidates who lost.
“They are welcome to support the likes of Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist and David Dewhurst. We will continue to proudly support the likes of Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz,” said Barney Keller, spokesman for the anti-tax, conservative-backing Club for Growth.
Rove has been considering picking sides in Republican primaries since November, seeing the 2012 election as a $300 million learning experience.
“We’ve got to carefully examine, as we did after 2010, an after-action report looking at everything with fresh eyes and questioning and figuring out what worked and what didn’t work,” he said at the time.
Republicans already fear conservative candidates will hurt them in 2014 races. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is considering a bid for the seat of retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D). According to the Times, the polarizing social conservative would be one of the group’s first targets. In West Virginia, conservatives may mount a primary challenger against Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the party’s preferred candidate for the seat of retiring Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D).