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Rove's venture into GOP primaries enrages Tea Party

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By Bloomberg News
Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, 5:58 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Leaders of the anti-tax Tea Party are fuming about plans by some Republican strategists to use the party's wealthy donors to help “electable” candidates win primary races.

Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for Conservative Victory Project, said in an e-mail on Monday that Republicans lost some Senate races last year and in 2010 because of “undisciplined candidates running bad campaigns.” The group “seeks to help elect the most conservative candidates in Republican primaries who can win in general elections.”

Leaders of the Tea Party and other GOP groups that oppose abortion and gay rights responded by calling political strategist Karl Rove, a founder of the project, a “fake conservative” who had “declared war” on the Tea Party.

The victory project was attacked as “Orwellian” by Matt Kibbe, the head of the Washington-based FreedomWorks, which identifies itself as a “grassroots” Tea Party booster.

Rove's group “is created with the sole operating mission of blocking the efforts of fiscally conservative activists across the country,” Kibbe said, according to the FreedomWorks blog.

If neither side backs down, the rift could lead to more costly Republican primary fights with the victors forced to quickly recover as they confront Democrats in the general election.

“Their idea of the most electable presidential candidate was Mitt Romney, and before him John McCain and before him Bob Dole,” said Brent Bozell, the leader of For America, a social media group that identifies its goals as promoting limited government, national defense and values.

“These fake conservatives need to go away before they do more damage,” he said in an e-mail and blog post, referring to those behind the victory project.

Rove was a top strategist for George W. Bush, and Bozell and others have argued that the GOP has suffered from its propensity to back “moderate” candidates such as Bush., a social media group that aggregates information about the anti-tax movement, posted a headline on its blog: “Rove Declares War on Tea Party.”

Erick Erickson, editor of the website, wrote that Rove's venture would “crush conservatives, destroy the Tea Party, and put a bunch of squishes in Republican leadership positions.”

Rove helped build American Crossroads, a super-political action committee, and its companion nonprofit, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, into the biggest-spending outside group of the 2012 federal elections. The two groups invested more than $175 million in last year's elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based group that tracks campaign finance.

The Crossroads groups spent more than $127 million on 82,000 television spots to help Romney in his unsuccessful bid to topple President Obama, according to Kantar Media's CMAG, an ad tracker based in New York. In Senate races, 10 of the 12 candidates they supported were defeated and four of the nine House candidates they backed lost their races.

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