THE TEA Party has spent two election cycles now targeting establishment Republicans. But now that the Republican establishment is starting to fight back, the Tea Partiers are crying foul.
A new group, the Conservative Victory Project, will try to protect Republican Senate incumbents from challenges by hard-right candidates. The new super PAC will also try to recruit experienced conservative candidates and weed out far-right hopefuls whom it considers too extreme or inflammatory to win. This effort comes after controversial comments about rape and pregnancy by ultra-conservative Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock helped doom the GOP’s chances of winning control of the Senate last year.
To be sure, it isn’t your father’s Republican establishment launching this effort. It’s an effort by big money donors, organized by the super PAC impresario Karl Rove. American Crossroads, the super PAC founded by Rove and fellow George W. Bush alumnus Steven Law, hardly earned a reputation for effectiveness in the 2012 election cycle. That group and its affiliate, Crossroads GPS, spent several hundred million dollars on TV ads, to very limited effect.
Election night was embarrassing to Rove for another reason. His performance as a Fox News analyst, in which capacity he protested Fox’s projection that Barack Obama would win Ohio and with it the presidency, has to rank as one of the year’s oddest on-air episodes.
And yet it’s refreshing to see more mainstream conservatives fighting back against the Tea Party. Yes, the Tea Partiers and sympathetic right-wingers are crying foul, but it’s hard to see why. They, after all, deem it a perfectly legitimate technique to “primary” Republican incumbents who don’t share their views. Surely a group committed to intra-party battles can’t object when others adopt similar techniques.
Ultimately, this is not just a GOP concern. If the result of the so-called Conservative Victory Project is Republican incumbents who are less worried about an intra-party challenge and thus more amenable to compromise, then the whole country will be well-served.