“If we are going to change Washington and save America, the tea party movement must hold every politician who supports higher taxes and even higher spending accountable — regardless of their political party. If that means we have to defeat some of these big-government politicians in primaries, so be it,” said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, in a statement released Friday.
The move appeared to be a direct response to an effort by veteran strategist Karl Rove and other GOP establishment figures to wrest control of the Republican Party from candidates and activists whom they view as unelectable and harmful to the party’s future.
After spending more than $300 million in what was widely regarded a losing effort in the 2012 elections, Rove and his fundraising allies have launched the Conservative Victory Project to help fight primary battles, especially for the Senate, against candidates they think will hurt the party’s chances in the 2014 midterms.
Many Republicans think that the party blew a chance to take control of the Senate in 2012, when they needed to win four Democratic-held seats, by offering candidates who were too flawed to win.
They point to Missouri and Indiana, where Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, respectively, lost what had been scored early on as winnable races for the GOP. In both cases, the party’s chances dimmed after the candidates made controversial comments about rape and abortion. Frustrated by those outcomes, Rove and his group will seek more control in the primary process through ad buys and the vetting of candidates.
“We have been the largest backer of very conservative candidates and tea party candidates in general elections, and in most cases, we’ve been pleased with the results,” said Steven J. Law, president of the super PAC American Crossroads, who will direct the Conservative Victory Project’s efforts. “But in a few instances, we realized that the candidate-vetting before the primary was slim to none. And the problems that the candidate had, made it impossible to win even when we had an excellent shot at winning the seat.”
But the conservatives who are the target of the effort say that Rove and the establishment hardly fared better than the tea party last year. They pointed out that American Crossroads supported no winning candidates and had a 1.29 percent success rate and that a number of well-funded establishment candidates, such as George Allen (Va.) and Tommy Thompson (Wis.), lost Senate races.