Karl Rove defends move to get involved in GOP primaries, saying Republicans can rebound

Source: Dallas Morning News

Political strategist Karl Rove Wednesday defended his move to get involved in Republican primary races across the country, saying a new vetting and research group would prevent “poor candidates” from giving rival Democrats an edge in critical election contests.

The Conservative Victory Project is a product of American Crossroads, the political action committee run by Rove that spent $320 million on the 2012 elections, including Mitt Romney’s ill-fated bid for the White House.

Speaking at the National Center for Policy Analysis’ Hatton W. Sumners Distinguished Lecture Series luncheon in Dallas, Rove said the idea behind his new project was to make sure conservative candidates “passed the basic trust test that you’re worthy to be in office.” He said that test also applied for GOP incumbents.

“We’ve given away at least five seats in the last two election cycles, maybe more, because of poor candidates,” Rove said. “Our donors said ‘we’re happy to write big checks, but we’re sick and tired of writing checks for campaign that can’t win.’”

But critics, including leaders of the anti-tax group Club for Growth, contend that Rove and the new group represent the Republican establishment’s effort to push out conservative, tea party candidates.

Rove, disagreed, saying American Crossroads had a strong record of funding tea party candidates and other conservatives.

“It’s not a question of ideology,” Rove said. “The quality of candidates matters.”

Rove mentioned missed opportunities last year to win Senate seats because of Republicans Todd Atkin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana as examples of why the Conservative Victory Project was needed. They both were sunk after making bizarre comments about women. Rove also cited Christine O’Donnell, the 2010 Senate nominee in Delaware, as a losing candidate that should have been vetted by Republican leaders.

“My posterior was shredded a little bit by donors wondering why we are writing checks for people who then turn around a run such lousy campaigns.”

Rove and American Crossroads were symbols of the awful year Republicans had nationally.

“Yeah, I’m personally responsible for it all, I tell you,” he joked as NCPA President and CEO John Goodman tossed him questions.

Rove, the architect of George W. Bush’s successful presidential campaigns, said American Crossroads was around for the long haul.

And he said Republicans should not give up on winning national elections and use more than “old white men” to deliver the conservative message.

He called President Barack Obama’s re-election a “tactical victory where people said ‘I can’t bring myself to vote for the other guy.’”

“American politics is up for grabs,” Rove said.

After his talk with Goodman, Rove gave me a two-word answer to a question about the April opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center at SMU.

“I’m excited,” he said before hustling away.