Former Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., announced Tuesday that he is forming a super PAC "to support freedom-loving conservative alternatives" and to fight back against a Karl Rove initiative to keep unelectable Tea Partyers from winning primaries.
Walsh tweeted on Tuesday:
He wrote on his Facebook page that "if we had listened to Karl Rove in 2010, there would be no [Florida] Sen. Marco Rubio. Rove backed Charlie Crist, who was last seen raving about President Obama at the Democrat National Convention last year." Walsh also referenced Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, whose opponents were also backed by Rove.
"In fact, if we had listened to Karl Rove in 2010, there never would have been a congressman Joe Walsh. Rove thought openly Tea Party candidates like Walsh couldn't win," wrote Walsh, who lost his seat in 2012 to Democrat Tammy Duckworth.
Walsh was responding to the launch of the Conservative Victory Project, a new initiative by the Karl Rove-linked super PAC American Crossroads. The idea is to enlist GOP billionaires to crush efforts by the Tea Party to pick off establishment incumbents and/or field far-right conservatives in the primaries that have no hope of winning a general election.
“There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected,” Steven Law, the president of American Crossroads, told the Times last weekend. “We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.”
Tea Party groups were not happy about it. Matt Kibbe, the head of Freedomworks, called the move "Orwellian" and rather dramatically said in a statement that "The Empire is striking back."
"All events point to a fundamental clash between the old guard Republican establishment dictating outdated ideas from the top-down, versus a tech-savvy younger generation of activists driving their agenda from the bottom-up," Kibbe wrote. "These blatant acts of hostility are typical behavior of an entrenched political establishment, circling the wagons around incumbents, regardless of job performance in office."
"I dare say any candidate who gets this group’s support should be targeted for destruction by the conservative movement,” wrote Erick Erickson on RedState.com.
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, wrote in a statement that Rove is part of “the consultant class” that “has been on the wrong side of history." And Amy Kremer, head of the Tea Party Express, warned: “If the establishment’s large donors want to see a complete electoral catastrophe, then all they need to do is push Tea Party conservatives into supporting alternative third candidates."
Kremer's Tea Party Express also sent out an email in the hopes of raising money off of the initiative, telling supporters: "The newly created Karl Rove Super PAC, Conservative Victory Project, is as principled as the RINOs that are funding it. They are looking to target Tea Party candidates that aren't willing to play along with their beltway politics. We cannot allow them to pick winners and losers by funding elections with money!"
The Tea Party's apoplectic reaction has led to a sort of softening from American Crossroads brass, who emphasized that it's not really a "war" on the Tea Party or its brand of conservatism. "Contrary to some of the commenting that’s going on in the Twitterverse, this is not some insidious plot to elect moderates in Republican primaries. We want to elect conservatives,” said Jonathan Collegio, an American Crossroads spokesman, though he added that they should be electable conservatives.
Steven Law, the American Crossroads president who had initially spoken with the Times, agreed on MSNBC’s "Daily Rundown": “It’s not because we’re necessarily nominating candidates who are too conservative. We’re just nominating candidates who don’t have the discipline or the fundraising drive or a lot of other things that they need to be able to effectively compete against very good Democratic candidates.”