Left to right: Karl Rove v. the conservative movement.
To see Karl Rove call rival center-Right political organizations ineffective and unworthy of support is to witness an enraged purse dog yap at a Rottweiler. The bigger hound’s expression — the canine equivalent of “Are you kidding me?” — is precisely the response Rove deserves.
After last November’s massively disappointing election, “Bush’s Brain” blamed the debacle on grassroots conservative groups like the Tea Party and their super PAC allies, such as FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth. The problem, Rove argued, is that these supposedly far-Right groups fielded candidates, especially for the U.S. Senate, who were too Right-wing to win. Thus, Rove launched his so-called Conservative Victory Project to promote reputedly mainstream Republicans who can prevail.
Our object is, to avoid having stupid candidates who can’t win general elections, who are undisciplined, can’t raise money, aren’t putting together the support necessary to win a general election campaign, because this money is too difficult to raise to be spending it on behalf of candidates who have little chance of winning in a general election.
But, like a shrill Chihuahua, Rove has a lot of nerve lecturing the major dogs at the kennel. Election Night 2012 was a calamity for Rove. Having washed out at the polls and discarded many, many millions of his donors’ dollars, Rove should stop his relentless yelping and retire to the dog house.
According to a granular Sunlight Foundation analysis of campaign expenditures by independent groups, Rove performed pitifully last November 6. Sunlight evaluated the success of 30 major political-funding groups. Campaign cash “succeeded” when, in Sunlight’s words, it “went to support candidates who won and to oppose candidates who lost in the general election.” By this measure, Rove’s Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies succeeded with only 14.4 percent of its spending. Even worse, Rove’s main operation, American Crossroads, was effective with a measly 1.3 percent of its contributors’ money.
And these sums were enormous. Crossroads GPS disbursed $70,586,641, of which only $10,185,652 helped defeat opponents. American Crossroads spent $104,746,715 of which just $1,351,233 helped vanquish targeted Democrats. The 98.7 percent, $103,395,482 balance went up in smoke. Rove’s efforts jointly burned through $175,333,356 — of which a mere $11,536,885 helped crush adversaries. Rove’s combined success rate for American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS is an embarrassing 6.58 percent. If Rove were a baseball player, his overall batting average would be .066. For American Crossroads alone, Rove would swing his bat as the Jumbotron read .013.
Worse still, the Sunlight Foundation reports, while Crossroads GPS helped torpedo seven Democrats, it “supported 0 winning candidates.” Similarly, American Crossroads sank two Democrat contenders, but “0.00% of money went to supporting winning candidates.”
For all of his bluster and “expertise,” Rove demonstrated last November that he has forgotten whatever he once may have known about winning elections.
So, did other center-Right groups incinerate their donors’ dollars, as Rove did?
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s success rate was just 6.9 percent, but that edged past Rove’s dismal results. Tea Party-associated FreedomWorks scored with 24.5 percent of its money. Club for Growth (CFG) nearly doubled that figure at 41.8 percent, while Americans for Tax Reform delivered on 57.4 percent of its patrons’ money.
These four organizations all endorsed and funded various congressional candidates who actually got elected. FreedomWorks backed freshmen GOP senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Deb Fischer of Nebraska. CFG financed Cruz and Flake. Rove did not spend a penny to bolster these nominees. Regardless, Rove chastises institutions like these that actually sent Republicans to Washington, while he accomplished no such thing.
“Karl Rove has no standing to criticize us,” Chris Chocola, CFG president and a former GOP congressman from Indiana tells me. “In the history of the Club for Growth — which covers the last seven election cycles, or 14 years — we have had only two candidates whom we endorsed, who won competitive primaries but ultimately failed to become members of Congress. Some whom we endorsed were not elected, like Josh Mandel of Ohio. But he faced no primary. A couple of them took two tries, namely Andy Harris of Maryland and David Schweikert of Arizona, but they eventually became members of Congress. The myth is that Club for Growth elects ‘extreme’ candidates who win contested primaries, but they can’t win general elections. There are only two such examples: Sharron Angle in Nevada and Richard Mourdock in Indiana.”
By backing North Dakota’s Rick Berg, Wisconsin’s Tommy Thompson, and New Mexico’s Heather Wilson, Rove already has suffered more such setbacks than has CFG. All three won competitive primaries and then whiffed their general elections. Rove blames outfits like CFG for last November’s losses by Mourdock (whom CFG and many conservatives backed in his successful challenge to veteran incumbent Richard Lugar) and Missouri’s Todd Akin (who was not the favorite of CFG nor many other grassroots conservatives; they largely split between John Brunner and Sarah Steelman). Chocola says: Mourdock and Akin “lost because they said really stupid things. But why did everyone else lose?”
Led by L. Brent Bozell, Chairman of For America and long-time chief of the Media Research Center, 18 major conservative luminaries wrote an open letter on March 14 to top Crossroads donors. Bozell, Richard Viguerie of Conservative HQ, David Bossie of Citizens United, Amy Kremer of Tea Party Express, Reagan biographer Craig Shirley, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, and others warned that “the model that will be employed by [Rove’s] Conservative Victory Project has proven to be ineffective and a waste of political resources.”
As this letter’s signatories explained: “The only Senate Republican winners were Jeff Flake, Deb Fischer, and Ted Cruz — all of whom enjoyed significant tea party and conservative support. Meanwhile, more moderate candidates like Tommy Thompson, Heather Wilson, Rick Berg, and Denny Rehberg went down to defeat despite significant support from Crossroads….Not one moderate Republican challenger won. According to the Sunlight Foundation, not one Senate challenger supported by Crossroads won.”
The letter added:
Groups like Crossroads squandered hundreds of millions of dollars in what were arguably the most inept campaign advertising efforts ever.
Mr. Rove and his allies must stop blaming conservatives for his disastrous results. It is time for him to take ownership of his record. He must also stop posturing himself as a conservative: his record supporting wasteful government spending and moderate candidates over conservatives spans decades.
This last point is vital: If Rove were a staunch conservative with a reverse Midas touch, that would be bad enough. However, Rove is an uber-RINO who is largely responsible for the fine mess confronting the GOP and the USA as a whole.
Rove was the architect of “compassionate conservatism,” which proved to be nothing more than the Great Society with Brooks Bros. suits. Rove advised G.W. Bush to slap tariffs on steel, approve the No Child Left Behind education boondoggle (authored by none other than the late Ted Kennedy), launch the $9.1 trillion Medicare prescription drug entitlement, sign morbidly obese farm and transportation bills, authorize equally porcine earmarks (from 4,326 under President Clinton in 2000 to 13,997 under Bush in 2005), prohibit Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb, and otherwise expand the parameters and deepen the penetration of the federal government to unprecedented dimensions.
According to the Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards, Lyndon Baines Johnson swelled inflation-adjusted, average federal spending by 5.7 percent annually, while Bush and Rove widened it by 4.9 percent. LBJ has the most Keynesian record since Ike; Baby Bush holds the silver medal. (Edwards’ analogous calculations for Obama are forthcoming.) Even without the War on Terror, Homeland Security, defense spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Katrina recovery, federal-spending growth still averaged 4.2 percent annually, far ahead of that period’s 2.8 percent average inflation rate.
This explosion in government, Rove promised, would guarantee Republicans a “durable governing majority.” Instead, Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House in 2006. And then, such profligacy — coupled with Bush’s post-Rove bailouts and nationalizations during the 2007-2008 financial crisis — laid out the sheets and pillowcases for what Obama would do to the American people once he took power.
Thank you, Karl.
“This is nothing new,” Bozell told Newsmax.com. Rove and the GOP establishment “have been at this for 30 years. In 2010, they worked overtime to prevent Marco Rubio from winning the Senate.”
“They supported Charlie Crist who went on to become a good Democrat,” Bozell continued. “In 2004, they supported Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey, and Arlen Specter went on to become a good Democrat. In 1980, when Karl Rove worked for George Bush, they were calling Ronald Reagan unelectable.”
Why does a campaign-losing, nine-digit-dollar-wasting, big-government liberal have any role in the Republican Party or on the American Right? Karl Rove has inflicted a lifetime’s worth of damage on the GOP, the conservative movement, and the United States of America. It is decades past time to banish this mutt to the back yard with nothing to gnaw on but a bone.