American Spectator: What Karl Rove Won’t Tell You

What Karl Rove Won’t Tell You

Wave goodbye to the Republican wave?

By Scott McKay, American Spectator, September 23, 2014


Last Wednesday (Sept. 17), former George W. Bush political guru and current Republican Super PAC king Karl Rove took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to exhort that paper’s readers to make it rain to the benefit of Republican senatorial candidates with just six weeks left before Election Day.

“…[R]educing the Democratic cash advantage will tip the needle in the GOP’s direction,” Rove said. “That will only happen if Republicans open their wallets to candidates whom they may have never met, and, if they live in a battleground state, they clear their calendars to volunteer to identify and get out the vote. If they don’t, they should prepare for two more years of Majority Leader Harry Reid.”

Rove says the Republican “wave” everyone expects this fall isn’t materializing as yet because Democrats are outraising and outspending Republicans across the board. As evidence, he cites that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had outraised the National Republican Senatorial Committee by $1.6 million in August and, as of August 31, was sitting on a $5 million larger war chest. Rove also noted a study by American Crossroads which concluded that so far Democrat political entities had run or placed some $109 million in campaign TV ads, while their Republican counterparts had only run or placed $85 million.

Rove asserts, “The midterm environment is terrible for Democrats,” and reminds the reader of all the conditions we already know about this cycle.

In his assessment of the atmosphere surrounding the midterms, if not much else, Rove is correct. This is an environment in which there ought to be an electoral decimation of Barack Obama’s political fellows, and with a Senate that is embarrassingly dysfunctional — there are more than 300 bills passed by the House of Representatives sitting on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s desk awaiting a vote — an expectation of a Republican wave is anything but wishful thinking. Needing to gain six Senate seats to retake the majority and consign Reid to irrelevance, it’s virtually assured the GOP will pick up half that number from Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. There are eight other seats — from Louisiana, Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan — that Republicans in a real wave election ought to be able to steal away from Reid and Obama.

And yet, as of now, such a wave is elusive. Even in states like Arkansas, Alaska, and Louisiana, where Democrats as a party are clearly on the way out, polls don’t show GOP blowouts. And in races in Kansas, Kentucky, and Georgia, deep red states all, Republican victory is hardly assured.

Rove’s alarm about fundraising might be more self-serving than instructive. The money shortage is but a symptom of a larger disease. The Republican Party, in part thanks to Rove’s actions, lacks credibility and trust with voters and activists — both of which it must have.

After all, how does the GOP sell itself as the party of reform when it’s asking voters to replace Harry Reid with Mitch McConnell? How does it sell itself as responsive to voters when John Boehner inexplicably touts amnesty for illegal immigrants as “good for the economy”? How can it stitch together a broad coalition of voters or present fresh ideas when senatorial fossils Pat Roberts and Thad Cochran can’t even get a majority of Republicans in their states to vote for them?

Moreover, Rove’s hands are not clean in the party establishment’s all-out war against the Tea Party earlier this year. A major effort was made to decry the practices of Tea Party groups using populist messaging as a fundraising tool for selfish profit rather than to move the electoral needle, and that criticism is valid. It’s true that many of the D.C.-based Tea Party outfits are running a racket on conservative activists and donors. But while the argument holds water, Rove and other Beltway GOP gurus like him are the wrong people to point fingers, because that’s precisely what they’ve been doing to their own donors.

In 2012, Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS raised some $325 million to purportedly help Mitt Romney and the GOP’s Senate candidates win elections. The results were catastrophic. But the media buyers who work for those organizations banked their 15 percent agency commissions anyway. Fifteen percent of $325 million in TV ads sure is a handsome sum, especially when those ads fail to sell.

Somehow, this failing was the fault of the Tea Party and its “bad candidates.” Todd Akin, for example, was not a Tea Party candidate. He was created as one after he blew his election with stupid comments about rape. Akin was put forth by Rove as a reason to launch Rove’s “Conservative Victory PAC,” which would hand-pick candidates in congressional races to prevent any more lousy “Tea Party” nominees. Apparently, Rick Berg, George Allen, and Tommy Thompson actually won their races in 2012. Who knew? And by the way, as National Review’s Maggie Gallagher notes, the establishment gurus haven’t exactly evolved from 2012 this cycle.

That dishonesty has done more to fracture the Right than anything else. Particularly after the Haley Barbour machine used black Democrats as “ringers” to beat Chris McDaniel in the Mississippi GOP primary, thwarting the preference of a majority of that state’s Republican voters for a fresh senator rather than the doddering, corrupt Cochran and using false charges of racism as a trump card, why should conservative voters go to war simply to replace Democrat hacks with Republican ones?

And then there is immigration. In an excellent Daily Caller piece, Mickey Kaus notes that if Republicans want to win, this election ought to be a referendum on amnesty for illegals. He says immigration is central in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Alaska, and it would be in North Carolina if GOP nominee Thom Tillis didn’t stink on the issue. Voter anger at Obama’s plans to offer amnesty by executive fiat is gold, says Kaus, and nationalizing the election on that issue is a winner. When Kentucky Opportunity, a Rove-affiliated outfit, ran an ad hammering Democrat nominee Allison Lundergan Grimes on amnesty, it gave McConnell some breathing room in the race.

But Rove doesn’t advise talking about amnesty in his WSJ piece, because he’s for it and so are his friends at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who get whatever they want from the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill.

A lack of trust and credibility, both with the voters as a whole and with the conservative base, is what’s dissipating the much-expected Republican wave. And while Rove beats the fundraising drums at the Wall Street Journal, the party is neither working to end the war with the Tea Party nor offering reasons why a GOP majority even matters. As such, control over the Senate majority mostly depends on mistakes by the other side in the next six weeks.



  1. Barbour and Rove have a great party loyalty to money….money, money! To hell with principle; to hell with reason. These are the folks who have backed losers ever since W left office so why are people still listening to them and heeding their advice. A GOP loss of the Senate majority will signal defeat of Barbour and Rove. Almost worth it to see that happen.

  2. Hey Catty:
    I love your tenacity. I know that William and I come across as narcissistic so-and-sos at times, but honestly you must understand that outside of several congressional districts in the South, your views and those of The Anointed One are simply not consistent with most conservatives, and certainly not with most Americans.”Conservatism” is the belief that as citizens, we should work
    together to preserve those liberal institutions in America that protect the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness from unnecessary and unreasonable government intrusion. It’s just that simple in theory. Like most
    things, however, the devil is in the details. But without promoting liberty, “conservatism” is just another synonym for “progressivism” when the demands of the collective are catapulted over the rights of the individual, contrary to the Bill of Rights as guaranteed in the Constitution. Until we as conservatives are prepared to extend equal protection under the law to all of our citizens without regard to race, color, sex, religion, age, creed, national origin, ethnicity, and LGBT status then we will continue to fail to win the souls of the majority of Americans in support of Or cause.

  3. You are the Progressive. Conservatives are not against the principles who lecture about; we are FOR freedom of the individual from your Progressive notion you need to control our lives in order to teach us how to behave. Barbour and Rove(with whom I have exchanged emails in the past and our paths crossed in D. C. and with whom I have shared mutual friends)are the ones who have strayed. Again: you Progressives(see Liberal on steroids) have promoted losing agendas, losing candidates. Lead, follow or get out of the way.

    • Hey Catty:
      I am always interested in learning from the experiences of others. I would appreciate it very much if you would share with us some of your life experiences with Rove and Barbour, particularly how you perceive that they”lost their way”. Also what is it about the promotion of liberty and equal protection under the law by conservatives that you find to be a form of progressivism? Thanks,

  4. Hey Catty:
    I am always interested in learning from the experiences of others. I would appreciate it very much if you would share with us some of your life experiences with Rove and Barbour, particularly how you perceive that they”lost their way”. Also what is it about the promotion of liberty and equal protection under the law by conservatives that you find to be a form of
    progressivism? Thanks,

  5. William Smith says:

    Catty, your hyperbolic language does not do your argument any good. In fact, it tends to undermine both your credibilty and and your substance. You label some Republicans as “progressive” and then define progessive as “liberal on steroids.” It’s just not the case that we have any Republicans who meet that definition. One thing I would like to ask is this: In terms statewide races around the country and in terms of national electons, what is your winning coalition? Or do you think that those who agree with your stands are a majority of the electorate so that you can elect candidates without a coaltion. To put the question another way: How do we win? Also, the author of the Am Spectator article says Cochran is both doddering and corrupt. He makes that assertion but gives no facts and makes no argument. What are the facts? Charges that that he is corrput and lacking integrity? Medical tests or at least anecdotal evidence he is dottering?

    • William makes a very important point that I too have been emphasizing–except for Lee, Paul, and Cruz, along with several congressional districts mainly in the South–Tea Party Patriot candidates have been getting creamed in statewide and major elections. You have no winning coalitions. You have tactics, but no winning strategies. Just like the Old Confederacy, it’s all about the “cause” for you folks. Also, so long as folks like The Anointed One who promotes a return to Traditional Values as the center piece his campaign, he is going to alienate people of color, women (especially single women), and younger aged voters. Therefore, you cannot run a successful statewide campaign that is designed to ignore/alienate such a large demographic of the electorate.

  6. Fanciful writing but there is an utter sound of fear from both Pappy and Smithy. You know we are Legion. You know we can change the dynamics of the GOP in MS in November! More than once I have made my case; you Progressives have caused the GOP to be the loser in three of the last four Presidential campaigns. But even if you don’t have a clear concept of Conservatism at least be truthful. We are for the pursuit of liberty within the framework of our Constitution and we do not oppose minorities nor equal rights for American Citizen as you have insisted. WE do however, strongly oppose the current view that favors blanket amnesty and the encouragement of illegal aliens and that they should not be given the same rights and privileges(see today’s story about undocumented aliens being encouraged to join our Armed Forces). And thus, we favor economic development and encouragement through free enterprise and capitalism. Hey, its been successful for many years and in the past six years the country has moved away and toward Socialism. Is that what you want? If so, let’s discontinue any more discussions as I can’t get down to your level. I am the product of immigrants….socialism is an insult to my family and to me.

    • Catty, I don’t think for one minute that you are a demon or evil spirit. You’re a smart person who is actively engaged in a healthy public discourse. You are also correct in part when you say, that “Conservatism is” the pursuit of liberty within the framework of our Constitution.” I would add that it also seeks to preserve the liberal institutions of a secular democratic republic that we enjoy as Americans. I have not come across any Republican
      candidates who are promoting a socialist agenda. To be sure, there are many aspects of our federal and state governments when the decision was made to begin going down that road almost 100 years ago–Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, FBI, SEC, FCC, ICC, FTC, Departments of Agriculture, Education, Energy, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, Labor, and the list goes on. In a
      complex society like ours, the tendency is not for government to get smaller, but to expand. This even happened under Ronald Reagan. So, the aim now should be to set realistic goals of making incremental decreases in size over a long time period–kind of like dieting in order to attempt to lose weight. If we attempt large cuts at once, then all we do is create alarm which causes
      the bureaucracy to circle the wagons for protection. But incremental reductions take time and patience–something that Tea Party Patriots are not known to have in abundance.

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