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November 2013

Nov 11, 2012

Karl Rove under fire

Karl Rove is shown. | AP Photo
Karl Rove is scrambling to protect his status in the GOP. | AP Photo
Karl Rove is feeling the heat.
The face of the historic $1 billion plan to unseat President Barack Obama and turn the Senate Republican, Rove now finds himself the leading scapegoat for its failure. And he’s scrambling to protect his status as a top GOP money man by convincing disappointed donors to his Crossroads groups that he did the best he could with their $300 million.
Sources tell POLITICO that some donors have called Crossroads officials to ask how their polling could have been so far off, while others are openly grumbling that the groups should have spent more on the ground game. Rival operatives — long frustrated by Rove’s dominance of big GOP money — are seizing on the discontent, questioning whether he’s hurting the cause and privately urging donors to shut him out.
During a secret Thursday afternoon conference call with his benefactors, Rove laid out the analytics behind his assertions to donors that a massive late-game advertising push would expand the electoral map into Pennsylvania and deliver the White House and the Senate.
(PHOTOS: 2012 mega-donors)
The call was civil, focusing on questions like, “‘where was my strategy, was it right, was it wrong? What did we find out that we didn’t know before?’ That kind of thing — nothing negative, no recriminations or blame,” said Minnesota media mogul Stan Hubbard.
Donors “weren’t saying anything like, ‘Hey, you dumb son of a b——,’” added Hubbard, who has donated to both the Rove-conceived American Crossroads super PAC and its secret-money nonprofit affiliate Crossroads GPS. “It was all very businesslike. It was as if you were in a business conference and you were a retailer and ‘why didn’t this product sell better?’”
(Also on POLITICO: Top Republican mega-donors)
On the call, some donors even told Rove, “’I’m glad I gave to you. I feel we made progress,’” recalled Hubbard. “Every quarterback, every coach doesn’t call every play 100 percent right,” he added. “I don’t know how you’re going to blame him. What are you going to blame Karl for?”
Others in conservative politics have been less forgiving.
(Also on POLITICO: Secret cash for GOP door-knockers)
Richard Viguerie, a pioneering direct-mail consultant, called for Republicans to purge from their ranks Rove and Ed Gillespie — who helped found Crossroads and later moved over to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign — as well as Romney advisers Stuart Stevens and Neil Newhouse. “In any logical universe,” he argued, “no one would give a dime to their ineffective super PACs, such as American Crossroads.”
Rick Tyler, a former strategist for the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC and a top adviser to Todd Akin’s Missouri Senate campaign, called Crossroads’ efforts “a colossal failure,” and asserted, “Rove has too much control over the purse strings.”
(Also on POLITICO: The Billion-Dollar Buy series)
Rove “has a lot of explaining to do, mostly to his donors. I don’t think donors are ever going to invest in that level again because it turns out that the architect didn’t know what he was talking about,” Tyler told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Rove didn’t comment for this story, but Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio attributed the mounting conservative grumbling to jealousy, and said the political world hasn’t heard the last of Rove or Crossroads.
“A lot of folks with very old axes to grind have hidden behind blind quotes to take cheap shots against Karl in the last few days,” Collegio told POLITICO in an email laying out main argument made by Rove and Crossroads — that things would have been a lot worse for Republicans without its ads.
“We’re dusting ourselves off, analyzing the data to figure out what went wrong and charting a path forward,” he added. “As we’ve always said, Crossroads is a permanent entity and will be back in 2014 and beyond — with Karl Rove continuing in his role as adviser, providing invaluable strategic vision and fundraising capability.”

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