Consultants in Conservative Crosshairs As GOP Brass Calls For Reforms

Karl Rove, the "Architect" behind George W. Bush's political ascendance, leads the list of Republican veterans that firebrand conservatives wish to eliminate from the party.

  • Share
  • Read Later
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Karl Rove, former Deputy Chief of Staff to President George W. Bush, walks on the floor at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

It’s no coincidence that Karl Rove has become the man conservatives love to hate at the very moment that Republican political consultants are trying to reform the GOP.

At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend, Rove and his consultant colleagues were roundly criticized by more conservative Republicans for meddling in primaries and losing elections — and for getting rich doing so.

The anti-consultant turn is one facet of the broader party schism that was on stark display at CPAC, where a mainstream Republican like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and even conservative Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell were not invited, while Sen. Rand Paul, the libertarian Kentucky Senator took first place in the conference’s straw poll.

The roots of the Rove hatred date to the first term of George W. Bush: Grassroots activists blame Rove for the explosion in public spending in Bush’s first; they blame him for party collapse in 2006. Now the base blames him for the 2012 debacle, as well.

Indeed the latest outbreak in the civil war inside the GOP between its conservative base and its veteran party operatives came days before GOP leaders were to release a new round of reforms designed to modernize the party after its 2012 defeat, and among other things, reduce the influence of mostly conservative fringe factions have in choosing the party’s eventual nominee.

The report, called the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” recommended the swift implementation of comprehensive immigration reform and a more tolerant approach to those who disagree with the official stance on gay marriage and women’s issues. Additionally, a shorter primary calendar with fewer debates is being considered, benefiting wealthier, and thus usually establishment, candidates.

(The report also included a nod to dealing with the vast sums collected by campaign consultants, calling for a move to incentive-based pay as opposed to the standard percentage of spending.)

At CPAC, the right wing’s dislike of Washington’s consultant class and it’s entrenched power may have been given special by a well-attended panel on the first day of the conference titled “Should We Shoot all the Consultants Now?” But the topic also dominated the conversation in the convention center halls and the addresses of the conservative movement’s most popular figures.

Sarah Palin, the 2008 vice presidential nominee turned conservative firebrand, said the Republican Party needs to look to its core principles and not politics to win electoral victories.

Sarah Palin

Jonathan Ernst / REUTERS

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin at the Conservative Political Action Conference this past weekend.

“Now is the time to furlough the consultants, and tune out the pollsters, send the focus groups home, and toss the political scripts,” she said, drawing one of the longest ovations of the conference. “Because if we truly know what we believe, we don’t need professionals to tell us.”

Then in a thinly veiled reference to Rove, who Bush credited as the “architect” of his reelection in 2004, Palin added that “the last thing we need is Washington, D.C., vetting our candidates. The architects can head on back to the great Lone Star state and put their names on some ballot.”

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich added, “The Republican establishment is just plain wrong about how it approaches politics,” he said. “The Republican consulting class is just plain wrong about how it approaches politics.”

And Brent Bozell, the founder of the Media Research Council and an unabashed critic of Rove, delivered a broadside against the entire Republican establishment from Speaker of the House John Boehner on down, but saved his harshest words for Rove, whom he declared was “never a conservative.”

“Rove knee-capped Christine O’Donnell,” he said of the conservative 2010 Delaware Senate candidate who unexpectedly won a primary over a moderate Republican before losing the general election. “He’s called Rick Perry’s ideas ‘toxic.’ Says Sarah Palin ‘lacks gravitas.’ He’s declared publicly that Rand Paul ‘causes the GOP squeamishness.’  Do you know what he’s called you? The party’s ‘nutty fringe.’ And now he says he wants to protect the GOP from “challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts…The last thing the GOP needs is for the anti-conservative professional political consultant class infecting its ranks. And the last thing we conservatives want is them infiltrating ours.”

But eliminating the consultants’ power over the GOP is impossible. The party veterans, like Rove, enjoy the support among many of the party’s big donors as well as officials from the biggest Republican state parties. Yet the grassroots distrust may impair the party’s ability to reform itself to better compete after two successive presidential defeats.

“People have to lead,” said Henry Barbour, one of the authors of the RNC report and the national committeeman from Mississippi. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but people have to lead. People have to fight for what is right…It might ruffle some feathers, but that’s fine — this is where the party needs to go.”

17 comments
Sparrow55
Sparrow55

As I read Karl Rove's supposed comments about Christine O'Donnell, Sarah Palin, Rich Perry, Rand Paul and the Tea Party, I thought to myself, that's the sensible approach the GOP needs to take in order to fix their problems.  That's when I was overcome with a massive wave of nausea when I realized I actually thought Karl Rove was making sense.  Urrrrrrrrrph.

gysgt213
gysgt213

This is what political consultants do.  They get rich off of campaigns win or lose.  Winning is always better of course.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

"Indeed the latest outbreak in the civil war inside the GOP between its conservative base and its veteran party operatives came days before GOP leaders were to release a new round of reforms designed to modernize the party after its 2012 defeat..."

"The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart."

-- Mary Shelly

AlistairCookie
AlistairCookie

"At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend, Rove and his consultant colleagues were roundly criticized by more conservative Republicans for meddling in primaries and losing elections — and for getting rich doing so."

So, Republicans criticized Rove for behaving like a Republican?  How very...meta of them.

Tero
Tero

GOP,

Please listen to and follow any and all recommendations from Sarah Palin. She is the brains in your little operation, listen to her!


With Love, 

Progressives/Liberals

TyPollard
TyPollard

@Sparrow55 

Karl was always pandering to the ignorant base of the Republican party...until he lost control of these very people. They started running and some even won. They became incensed when the realized the corporate wing of their party didn't care about gay marriage, abortion or immigration.

jmac
jmac

@shepherdwong Mary Shelly - another name for Fox News.   They tried to ignore their creation all week by simply not covering CPAC.  

TyPollard
TyPollard

@shepherdwong 

The Tea Party marches on, looking for love while every now and then throwing little girls into ponds like daisies. 

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

@AlistairCookie The meta-ness goes further:

 "(The report also included a nod to dealing with the vast sums collected by campaign consultants, calling for a move to incentive-based pay as opposed to the standard percentage of spending.)"

The GOP was getting screwed while trying to screw the American People. The irony is simply delightful!

reallife
reallife

@Tero   and she still looks good!  oh maybe that's why... hmmm...  jealous? is that it?

reallife
reallife

@Tero   hahaha   she still has it, doesnt she? she knows how to press your whiny asses' buttons  LOL  

go Sarah go!  keep it up... nothing better than seeing a lib squirm  lol

 

Tero
Tero

@reallife @Tero 

Yes, please keep believing that. LOL Make her your leader! LOL Go Sarah Go!