Grassroots Republican operatives and Movement conservatives are quickly turning against the GOP Establishment in the wake of the party's expensive defeat this election cycle.
Republicans we spoke to this week voiced a near-universal disgust with the national Republican Party leaders and Washington political class, who are seen as having put their personal financial interest above winning the election.
As this internecine struggle gathers steam, the first target appears to be Karl Rove, the former Bush campaign mastermind who has dictated much of the GOP's strategy over the past decade.
In the wake of the party's 2012 losses, however, Rove and his well-funded American Crossroads super PAC have become a symbol of misguided Establishment strategy, party cronyism, and Beltway bloat. The fall from grace is perhaps unsurprising, given his group's disastrous performance this cycle. According to a new report, American Crossroads got a mere 1% return on its $104 million investment in 2012 races.
For social conservatives, Rove's treason began long before election day, when the Fox News contributor led the party's tar-and-feathering of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, who came under fire for his now infamous "legitimate rape" comments. The party's perceived betrayal of Akin confirmed what many grassroots conservative activists had long suspected: That the Republican Establishment was willing to throw the base under the bus to serve the interests of deep-pocketed donors.
Chief among Rove's critics is David Lane, a powerful evangelical kingmaker and conservative operative who organizes briefings between pastors and politicians. In an email obtained by Business Insider, Lane lays out his criticism of Rove and sets the stage clearly for the coming war between the GOP Establishment and the party base.
Karl Rove presents a different problem -- while [evangelical leaders] are politically naive (from my angle) — Karl is not, he's as shrewd as a serpent.
Karl is far more formidable...in the presidential Republican primary in 12', Karl stepped on Rick Perry and then Newt Gingrich every chance he got — albeit with deceit and sophistication — and elevated Mitt Romney at strategic, crucial points along their way to the Republican nomination — Rove's candidate.
As an example of how sophisticated Rove is…Karl Rove was out raising money to keep Santorum alive until they could kill Newt — Santorum basically ran for Governor of Iowa in 2011, visiting all 99 counties; Santorum, out of Iowa, had no organization, no money and no chance in 2012 to be the Republican nominee; he was only a stalking horse for Mitt Romney — Rove kept Santorum alive until he could kill Rick Perry first, and then Newt Gingrich.
It's instructive to note that Santorum placed 3rd in the South Carolina Presidential Primary the third week of January, and placed 3rd again the next week in Florida — yet Rove [by encouraging GOP donors to donate Santorum] was able to parlay two third place finishes into a $1M shot of money to keep Santorum alive...this is political gamesmanship on a whole other level, plus access to unlimited money.
That FOX News and the The Wall Street Journal worked out a hefty financial contract with Karl Rove is of no concern to me, Karl has every right to be paid well and — like me —participate in the political process. But giving Karl Rove the perch as a neutral analyst and an unbiased observer -- honest broker — when in reality Karl is driven by his desire to enhance his clients and/or personal interests — corrupts the process.
Being whipsawed…[by] Karl Rove & the GOP chieftains and lieutenants has to be dealt with on our way toward 2016.
Attacks on the GOP Establishment and Washington political class have not been limited to Rove. In a post leading the conservative site RedState this weekend, the Romney campaign is accused of being a "con job," in which consultants spun "false data as truth in order to paint a rosy picture of a successful campaign as a form of job security."
The feeling that Republicans were duped by their own is echoed around the conservative blogosphere, as right-leaning writers, activists, and the party's rank-and-file collectively process how the GOP lost an election that less than a year ago looked to be in the bag. These tweets, from Breitbart.com editor John Nolte, provide a good illustration:
Twitter / @NolteNC
And among Republicans, there is a sense that the Establishment is getting what it deserves. In an email to Business Insider, one GOP strategist summed it up:
"A party who won't paint in bold colors, who puts out flawed messengers, who doesn't focus on fundamentals, who pisses off the young and the libertarian, well, that party just got what was coming to it."