Conservatives turn on Karl Rove

Conservatives are looking for a scapegoat for their losses on Tuesday, and Bush's brain is in their crosshairs

Published November 8, 2012 5:32PM (EST)

Karl Rove helped pour $400 million of outside money into the 2012 elections. But since Republican candidates were walloped on Tuesday, the backlash against the Rove strategy is coming fast, and he has a lot of explaining to do.

Rove has alternately blamed Hurricane Sandy ("The president was also lucky," he wrote in a Thursday Wall Street Journal Op-Ed. "This time, the October surprise was not a dirty trick but an act of God. Hurricane Sandy interrupted Mr. Romney’s momentum and allowed Mr. Obama to look presidential and bipartisan") and argued that if not for Crossroads, "this race would have been over a long time ago."

For his part, Mitt Romney has also been pointing to Hurricane Sandy, telling donors on Wednesday that the storm killed his momentum.  Some of those donors are blaming Chris Christie as well: “A lot of people feel like Christie hurt, that we definitely lost four or five points between the storm and Chris Christie giving Obama a chance to be bigger than life,” one anonymous donor told the Washington Post.

But mostly Republicans are lashing out at Rove. Rick Tyler, an adviser for Todd Akin's campaign, pointed to Rove's management of his super PAC. "Rove spends more for Republican candidates than the NRSC and the NRCC. He's running things," Tyler told BuzzFeed. He added, "Rove is definitely a problem."

Donald Trump also had a say:

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A Wednesday New York Times article highlighted Rove's on-air meltdown over Fox News' projection that Obama had won Ohio, saying that Rove's refusal to accept the result "raises questions about his role." Rove explained that his objections were based on memories of "premature calls" in 2000.

But, the Times asks:

"Was he acting as the man who oversaw the most expensive advertising assault on a sitting president in history, unable to face his own wounded pride? The fund-raiser who had persuaded wealthy conservatives to give hundreds of millions of dollars and now had a lot of explaining to do? Or the former political strategist for George W. Bush, who saw firsthand how a botched network call could alter the course of a presidential contest?"

One Huffington Post report lends credence to the "fund-raiser who had persuaded wealthy conservatives to give hundreds of millions of dollars and now had a lot of explaining to do" theory: "The billionaire donors I hear are livid," a Republican operative told HuffPo. "There is some holy hell to pay. Karl Rove has a lot of explaining to do … I don't know how you tell your donors that we spent $390 million and got nothing."

That explaining will come today, Politico reports, when Crossroads holds a phone call with donors to explain the losses. Minnesota mega-donor Stan Hubbard told Politico of the call: “Obviously, somebody made a mistake and didn't do things right. There’s no question about that."

By Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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2012 Elections Barack Obama Crossroads Gps Karl Rove Mitt Romney