Rove takes sides in big GOP primary fight

The former White House aide gives money to the man running for Senate against Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

By Alex Koppelman

Published October 5, 2009 8:01PM (EDT)

Some times, the Republican primary battle over one of Florida's Senate seats, recently given up by former Sen. Mel Martinez, seems like nothing so much as a microcosm of the larger fight for the soul of the GOP. On one side, you've got Gov. Charlie Crist, a very popular politician who would theoretically cruise to victory in a general election. But conservatives dislike Crist, who's too moderate for their taste, and so they've settled on a canddiate of their own, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.

Given that dynamic, it seems significant that Karl Rove has chosen sides and -- quite literally -- put his money where his mouth is. Rove put his weight, and $1,000, behind Rubio, NBC's First Read blog reports.

At first glance, Rove's choice might look a little odd. Despite his reputation, Rove is something of a pragmatist when it comes to Republican politics, and that means supporting more moderate candidates and positions in some cases. (Immigration, for instance.) In another big primary, he backed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's challenge to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who's the conservative candidate in that race.

This decision, though, probably says less about where Rove's ideological sympathies lie than it says about his personal ties. Crist doesn't get along with former Gov. Jeb Bush; given Rove's relationship with the entire Bush family, his decision may have more to do with that than anything else. It may also be interpreted as a proxy endorsement made on Bush's behalf.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2010 Elections Charlie Crist Florida Senate Race Karl Rove Marco Rubio Republican Party War Room