The architect of the famous Swift Boat attacks against veteran and presidential candidate John Kerry is at it again.
Karl Rove has recently created the Conservative Victory Project, a super PAC that will take on Tea Party-endorsed candidates within the Republican Party who might cost the GOP potential elections, as was the case with Christine O’Donnell in Deleware, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Richard Mourdock in Indiana. Many pundits are calling the move a call-to-arms in a broadening civil war between increasingly conservative Tea Party Republicans and ever-more conservative “establishment” Republicans.
For the GOP, a party well-known for witch hunts, a destructive turn inwards can only spell uncertainty in the near-term and possibly great doom beyond.
Politicians on all ends of the conservative political spectrum are gearing up for fierce campaigns to replace Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, as well as protecting a number of congressional seats nationwide.
But the real prize, the presidency in 2016, will truly test the unity of the Republican Party. Two presumptive GOP candidates, Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, offered separate rebuttals to President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. While both speeches sounded very similar in nature, Paul, representing the Tea Party voice, made it clear that the GOP compromised too much with the majority party, despite evidence and popular belief to the contrary.
By 2016, Paul may potentially be able to harness and unify the ultra-conservative GOP primary voters that voted en masse for 2012 candidates Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann. With establishment voters likely split between more mainstream figures such as Rubio, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, the Tea Party star might prove to be the favorite.
Would Rand Paul be electable outside of his party? That is the question Rove hopes never needs to be answered. The Tea Party, however, has shown skill at villifying “insider” Republicans seen as more electorally driven than ideological. If the Conservative Victory Project begins making endorsements, it could end up backfiring and hurting mainstream Republican candidates in the eyes of conservative primary voters. As a result, expect to see more Swift Boat style attacks on extreme Tea Party candidates in 2014. If the strategy is as successful as it was in 2004 , it may provide a model for future GOP candidates in the intra-party struggle between electability and dogmatism.
Do not be surprised if Rubio and Christie keep an eye on Rove’s new super PAC in the coming years as they prepare for their own campaigns. The bloody infighting expected in 2014 may just pale in comparison to the unanticipated carnage just two years later.