DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Turmoil deepened among leading Republicans over efforts to ward off controversial candidates in the next election, as Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad blasted a new candidate-steering plan by Karl Rove and warned him to stay out of state and congressional races.Â
“I basically told Karl Rove that what he was doing is counter-productive and he needs to stay out of it,” said Branstad, recounting a phone call to Rove, the leader of the new Conservative Victory Project.
In the aftermath of last fall’s disappointing election outcome for the GOP, party leaders have been focusing on fielding more candidates with broad appeal – and fewer unpredictable ones – but have split bitterly over how to do it, worsening party tensions.
The push was prompted in part by the defeat of Republican Senate candidates Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana, who lost races the GOP expected to win. The two, who were backed by ultraconservative Tea Party groups, suffered after making controversial comments about rape, and their losses helped kill GOP chances of winning control of the Senate.
The Rove-backed group is planning to raise money and run ads in primary election campaigns to help candidates seen as more attractive to general election voters. The effort is intended to counterbalance fundraising groups that boosted strong conservatives in primary races.
But the targeted effort conflicts with a more diplomatic approach favored by Branstad and other mainstream Republicans wary of offending important officeholders and factions. Branstad, who is influential as the five-term governor of a political swing state that hosts the first nominating contest of each presidential campaign, was especially inflamed by indications the Rove organization would target Iowa arch-conservative Rep. Steve King if he tried to run for the state’s open Senate seat in 2014.
There is similar tension about Republican candidates in West Virginia, where the GOP hopes to pick up a seat long held by Democrats, and in Georgia, where Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ retirement has set off an internal fight between hard-right conservatives and the GOP establishment.
Branstad, in an interview with the Associated Press, said Rove’s plan to use fundraising and negative advertising against suspect Republicans was “a mistake.”
“If some outside group that has no connection to Iowa attacks somebody from Iowa, that is not smart,” Branstad said.
In the weeks after Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin announced his retirement, Branstad has used private breakfasts with King and his House colleague Tom Latham to discuss who would be the strongest contender for seat, which has been held by Democrats for more than 30 years.
News of Rove’s plans inflamed King, prompting him to issue an angry fundraising appeal in which he declared, “Nobody can bully me out of running.”
Representatives of Conservative Victory Project did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But in a New York Times story earlier this month, organization director Steven Law was quoted as saying, “We’re concerned about Steve King’s Todd Akin problem…All of the things he’s said are going to be hung around his neck.”
King has strong support among conservatives but also a reputation for provocative statements. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he said a victory by Democrat Barack Obama would be welcomed by terrorists. “If he is elected president, then the Islamist, the al-Qaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters will be dancing in the streets.”
King’s devout followers, among Iowa’s most conservative, were incensed at the news of Rove’s group. But so were traditional GOP stalwarts like Richard Schwarm.
“I think that was a total backfire on Rove’s part,” said Richard Schwarm, a former Iowa Republican Party chairman and longtime Rove friend.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- The best places to celebrate Fall in Phoenix
- Infamous athletes who did the most time for their crimes
- 2016 baseball highlights, bloopers and blunders
- See how CFOs really feel about business in the Valley
- The best television shows on the internet
- A preseason guide to avoid holiday weight gain
- The 5 worst things you could do for your roof
- 6 coolest things brewing in Arizona
- The virus that keeps head and neck cancers on the rise
- State Fair ‘Kid Reporter’ has all the angles covered
- 4 important things to know about timeshare maintenance fees
- Signs of delayed car crash injuries
- The truth about sports concussions
- The Alzheimer's epidemic: Facts you need to know
- The season is here, keep your Fantasy Football team strong all season
- 8 TV shows you can't miss this fall
- Football is here: 6 tips to make this your best season ever
- Gameday recipes and beers to match
- 6 reasons the Cardinals are driven to win the Super Bowl
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier