Karl Rove's bizarre new obsession: Why he's using Elizabeth Warren to troll Democrats

The face of the GOP establishment loves Elizabeth Warren! Or maybe he has an underhanded motivation

Published February 24, 2015 4:33PM (EST)

Karl Rove                   (Fox News)
Karl Rove (Fox News)

Who's Ready for Warren? Karl Rove is!

The prolific fundraiser and former babysitter of President George W. Bush just cannot get enough of Elizabeth Warren these days. His super PAC, American Crossroads, has a new ad out attacking Hillary Clinton through Elizabeth Warren's own stirring, populist words.  The Huffington Post is trying to determine whether this is concern trolling or just garden-variety trolling. Perhaps he loves Elizabeth Warren, earnestly. She's swell.

Man, does he ever want Warren to stick it to that corporate fat cat Hillary Clinton. Last week he went on Hugh Hewitt's radio show. Usually guests on Hewitt's show are just berated with questions about Alger Hiss until they hang up, but Hewitt wanted to pick Rove's brain about the Red Communist du jour, Elizabeth Warren. Could she destroy Hillary Clinton in the primaries? My god yes, Karl Rove said, before hedging like a coward.

Former President George W. Bush's political guru Karl Rove said Monday that liberal Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren could make the 2016 Democratic primaries difficult for presumptive Democratic Party frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Warren would "certainly give her a scare," Rove told syndicated talk-show host Hugh Hewitt.

Warren's "hard-left prescriptions on the economy sing to the heart of Democratic primary voters," Rove said. "So yeah, I think she could give her a run for her money."

Rove said he was unsure whether Warren could actually defeat the former secretary of State to win the Democratic nomination.

Rove isn't the only Republican to talk up Warren. If we can inhabit our most naive selves for a second, there's a small way in which this praise is earnest. Conservative warriors may not like what Elizabeth Warren says, but they respect her for actually believing strongly in something, unlike Hillary Clinton. (What they will be less reluctant to admit is that they'd be much more comfortable with a Hillary Clinton presidency than a Warren one.)

But of course they just want Hillary Clinton to get a little dirtied up before the general election, and Warren would be the best person for that job. ("Would be" because she's said she's not running and will not be running and hasn't offered a single indication that she may run.)

When people like Mike Huckabee or Michele Bachmann say that Warren should run for the Democratic nomination to shake things up, they obviously just want her to make life difficult for Clinton, too, but there's a consistency there. These are people who personally have run, and may yet run again, much against the wishes of party elders. Elizabeth Warren is their fellow traveler.

Karl Rove, meanwhile, does not like competitive primaries. He is the face of the GOP establishment. If it were up to him, Jeb Bush would be the only candidate running for president on the Republican side. All of the other candidates, in Rove's terrifying dream world, would defer to Bush for the good of the party. Every Republican donor would throw half of their money to Bush and the other half to American Crossroads. The general election would begin immediately, sparing John Ellis Bush and the party the humiliating process of first having to appeal to Republican voters.

How jealous must Karl Rove and the GOP establishment be of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment? Hillary Clinton's position in the Democratic presidential field is something party elites fantasize over. She can officially "start" her campaign as late as she wants, probably in the summer. All the money will be hers. She won't have to lie to primary audiences in order to get to the general.

The GOP, meanwhile, will have to do the whole competitive-primary thing again. God, Karl Rove must hate this. While Hillary Clinton sits around, effectively unchallenged, giving paid speeches when and if she pleases through the spring, the GOP presidential field will be engaged in a spectacular race to the bottom. It's terrifying to consider what this bottom could look like. Here it is, only February, and we've had one GOP candidate after another stumbling over the easiest of questions: mandatory vaccinations, President Obama's "love of America," President Obama's religion. What's the nadir? An intra-party spat about the 13th Amendment? One candidate's statement may jockey him ahead of another candidate's statement, for about fifteen minutes, but as long as these questions are being engaged, there are only losers in the long run. Karl Rove knows this and it makes him sad, saaaaaaaaad.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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