Tea Party leaders have established a super-political action committee that will counter political strategist Karl Rove’s effort to get Republicans to nominate candidates he views as electable.
The Real Conservatives National Committee has been set up to fund voter-identification efforts and grassroots organizing designed to support candidates favored by the anti-tax Tea Party leaders in party primaries. The efforts will include targeting incumbent Republicans Tea Party activists want to defeat.
Rove, who served as former President George W. Bush’s chief political adviser, created the Conservative Victory Project earlier this year with the avowed goal of helping “elect the most conservative candidates in Republican primaries who can win in general elections.”
The move sparked an immediate backlash from critics claiming that Rove was attempting to play kingmaker.
The new super-PAC “is pretty much the antithesis of what he’s doing in every way possible,” said Lorie Medina, the organization’s chairwoman and the founder of a Tea Party group in Frisco, Texas.
Rove is “the perfect boogeyman for me. All I have to do is say, ‘Let’s stop Karl Rove,’ and everybody knows exactly what I mean,” Medina said.
A spokesman for Rove’s super-PAC, Jonathan Collegio, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
As one of its initial endeavors, the Real Conservatives group plans on June 15 to have activists in some communities survey potential Republican voters to gauge support for challenging the party’s incumbents in Congress.
The super-PAC will aid efforts to field candidates to run against potentially vulnerable incumbents, Medina said. The group’s website estimates that two to four Republican U.S. senators and 10 to 20 of the party’s members in the House of Representatives may face primary opponents in 2014.
“If there is a consensus, we come together and support the challenger,” Medina said. “We provide the resources to the local activists. I’m not deciding who’s conservative or not conservative. Karl Rove is coming in from on high out of Washington and saying, ‘This is who I pick.”’
Rove’s push to influence party primaries came after Republicans lost several Senate races in 2010 and 2012 they were favored to win, with the losses following the nominations of Tea Party-backed candidates. These included Todd Akin in Missouri, who in his Senate campaign last year said “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy.
The American Crossroads super-PAC and its related Crossroads GPS nonprofit organization, groups that Rove helped set up, spent more than $175 million in the 2012 campaign -- more than any other outside group -- in failed efforts to defeat President Barack Obama and win Republican Senate control.
As part of the negative reaction to Rove’s Conservative Victory Project, some Tea Party leaders and Republican activists wrote to American Crossroads donors earlier this month to urge them not to support the strategist’s new group.