The battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party has begun, and at the center is none other than one-time political mastermind Karl Rove.
For those of us who saw this coming last summer, such a revelation is of little surprise.
“On one side is the Tea Party,” Breitbart.com’s Ben Shapiro wrote in an analysis Sunday. “On the other side stand Karl Rove and his establishment team, posing as tacticians while quietly undermining conservatism.”
Shapiro’s commentary came in response to a New York Times report that Rove and Steven J. Law, president of American Crossroads, have joined forces with the “biggest donors in the Republican Party” to create the Conservative Victory Project.
The group’s goal is to “recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party’s effort to win control of the Senate,” The Times reported.
Shapiro identified Christine O’Donnell of Delaware and Richard Mourdock of Indiana as prime examples of tea party candidates who “complicate” Republican efforts.
While I don’t disagree with the premise of Shapiro’s argument, I say, Where have you been?
In the spirit of Patrick Henry, I submit the early gale had already swept up from the south, bringing to your ears the clash of resounding arms! Your brethren are already in the field. Why stand ye here idle?
Truth be known, for those of us paying attention, the “battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party” began in earnest last summer in the John Mica/Sandy Adams congressional primary race in Central Florida.
After redistricting, the old-guard Mica inexplicably abandoned what represented the bulk of his previous district, newly drawn congressional District 6, to force a Republican vs. Republican battle in District 7 by taking on tea party favorite Adams, who had already announced her intentions to run there.
It was a decision The New York Times called “a slightly curious choice as more of Mr. Mica’s constituents will be in an adjoining district.”
But for Mica and his establishment Republican backers, more was on the line than a single race.
“The Mica-Adams clash was one of the most closely watched Republican primaries in the country, as it became another front in the national battle over the direction of the GOP,” the Orlando Sentinel noted at the time.
Adams was heavily supported by the tea party, earning endorsements from former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin, the national Tea Party Express and fellow freshmen lawmakers like then-Rep. Allen West, while Mica was supported by more entrenched politicians like himself.
“There is no question that in this race there are two directions. One is for more government spending and one is for less government spending,” said Erick Erickson, the managing editor of RedState and an Adams supporter.
When he prevailed in the August match-up, a jubilant Mica, then-chairman of the powerful House Transportation Committee, said:
“They said that this race was about the heart and soul of the Republican Party… I’m here to tell you tonight that the heart and soul of the Republican Party is doing fine here in Central Florida.”
With the race framed as a battle for the future of the GOP, Mica could clearly declare victory on behalf of the old-guard Republican establishment.
An establishment represented by Karl Rove.
Yet, even with the national attention, the heavily contested race and Mica’s “coup de grace” seemed to fly under the radar for many in the conservative movement. Conservatives like Shaprio.
The Times article suggested Rove’s Conservative Victory Project “will challenge sitting Congresspeople of the Tea Party variety,” but the Mica race proves such actions were already well underway. As for Shapiro’s sudden awakening, we on the front lines welcome the reinforcements.