No, Karl Rove, It’s A Leadership Problem

This caught my eye from CS Monitor:

Over the weekend, The New York Times‘s Jeff Zeleny reported that the Republican establishment is taking quick strides – via a new political group created by strategist Karl Rove – to fix what they’ve taken to calling their “Todd Akin problem.” They’ll be giving support in Republican primaries to the candidates they see as most electable.

 

Former Rep. Todd Akin (R), as you may recall, was the 2012 Missouri Senate candidate who lost what was widely seen as a winnable race after he said that cases of “legitimate rape” rarely resulted in pregnancy. The remarks were widely ridiculed – including by many in Mr. Akin’s own party – and have been cited repeatedly by party bigwigs as examples of “stupid,” self-inflicted wounds that cost Republicans a chance at controlling the Senate.

The Missouri senate race was shaped by the inaction and lack of leadership from the state party. Period. I’ve spoken to many party insiders who agree. The establishment didn’t want Akin — those who claim otherwise embarrass themselves with their lack of knowledge about my home state’s politics. The moderate faction of the GOP wanted Akin gone. His rejection of TARP was unconscionable, his bad-mouthing of NCLB intolerable, and he spoke too much about Jesus. (Heavens no! Not Jesus!) He wasn’t a problem candidate (he led by 11 points before his remark) until he showed that his passion for life was greater than his desire to prepare for questions on it. He had never run against a liberal and the MO GOP did nothing to help him prepare for this. Instead, they exploited it as a way to advance the interests of certain actions. The party’s “take their ball and go home” approach contributed to a blistering primary where every Tom, Dick, and Harry threw their hat in the ring and they beat each other bloody, to the delight of Claire McCaskill. It was an easy race we should’ve won. The party scoffed at any candidate that wasn’t establishment approved, cast their lot early on, catfights ensued behind the scenes, better candidates were ignored — it was an all-out, front yard, hillbilly slapfight — like the ones from my grandma’s SoMo front yard.

The problem with this race, as I’ve written infinity-times before, began before the general election. It wasn’t the fault of the candidates, it was the fault of the party for not working to clearly identify a strong contender or develop another candidate. They just didn’t like the frontrunner. The frontrunner didn’t want to work with the party in the general after it tried to torpedo him out of the primary. Their surrogates and supporters ate each other alive. The party stood idly by and stoked the flames now and again. Grassroots was somewhat divided, and the conservative movement in Missouri split.  Had Akin media training and party support from the onset of the general that comment would never have happened and McCaskill would have lost. He imported some of Newt Gingrich’s people into his inner circle and only then did his campaign roll back onto the track, although too late for anything other than to save face. Without training, he was woefully unprepared for the slick McCaskill machine. Grassroots still hasn’t really recovered, as several groups I know stopped working with each other over the race.

It was a genius plan, I thought, if the goal was to divide and conquer grassroots.

Which is why it’s ridiculous that Karl Rove is citing Missouri’s senate race as one of the main reasons for establishing his group. It’s hurt and rescue: their dissolve of party principles have caused massive turmoil that they seek to blame on grassroots while targeting conservative candidates as a front to “save” senate elections. Instead of working with newer, conservative candidates and preparing them for election battle, Rove and Co want to drum them out of the party in favor of the Charlie Crists, Chris Christies, Dick Lugars, John Danforths, et cetra.

The party has the right to curate candidates and select preferred contenders. They bring the money to the table, the resources. Their donors give them money because they trust the party’s judgment in using it for electoral gains. I get it. But when the people choose a contender, even early on, you make it work if you want to win. You may have the campaign resources, but they have the votes. The party failed in this respect.

I could say much more, but basically Rove’s place of blame ignores the problems within the party that caused it, problems he seems to have zero interest in addressing. In short: Don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing.

 

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