Tea Party activists tell The Daily Beast that Karl Rove "has been wrong all summer long." Shushannah Walshe on the party's fight over Sarah Palin and the Republican soul. Plus, midterm predictions from the Election Oracle.
It didn’t take long for Tea Party activists to circle the wagons after Karl Rove’s attack on Sarah Palin.
“What you're seeing is the first shot in the war against Sarah Palin,” said Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips. “Karl Rove is a very shrewd political operative. Getting himself into trouble is not what’s going on,” added Phillips, who earlier this year organized the Tea Party convention, where Palin was the headline speaker.
“Karl Rove–bless his heart–has been wrong all summer long when it comes to having any idea of what conservative Americans want,” said Levi Russell, spokesperson for the Tea Party Express by email. “The difference is that Rove is a D.C. analyst, and Sarah Palin is a leader.” Russell described Palin as “unquestionably the most electrifying figure in politics today,” while Rove “strikes me as a guy who would cross his arms and scowl at the thought of some Hollywood actor named Reagan running for Governor of California.”
Damning by faint praise, Russell went on to say: “Personally I’ve always liked Rove, but it is painfully obvious that he is losing his connection with the American people, and no longer has his finger on the very strong pulse of the conservative movement in this country, which is fueled by the tea party and figures such as Gov. Palin.”
In an interview with the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, Rove on Wednesday questioned Palin’s suitability for the presidency, citing her reality-TV show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, which will air next month.
“There are high standards that the American people have for it [the presidency] and they require a certain level of gravitas, and they want to look at the candidate and say 'that candidate is doing things that gives me confidence that they are up to the most demanding job in the world’,” Rove said.
Rove was the architect of the Bush presidency—and a big-tent vision of the Republican Party he hoped would long outlast 43’s time in the White House. But by the time Bush left office, his approval ratings had sunk so low that many conservatives ran away from his legacy, and avoided even mentioning his name.
“Karl Rove—bless his heart—has been wrong all summer long when it comes to having any idea of what conservative Americans want.”
As the Obama presidency used the force of the federal government to try to tame an economy in ruins, a grass-roots brigade of Tea Partiers rose up—reacting against Big Government and eager to revive a Republican Party in limbo.
With Obama’s declining fortunes, Rove has reasserted himself, funneling rivers of newly unrestricted campaign cash into an effort to aid Republican candidates nationwide. As Election Day draws near, the infighting between Rove and the Tea Partiers has grown more intense—jockeying for primacy over the direction of the party, a battle that could shape the presidential election in 2012.
The Palin attack wasn’t Rove’s first swipe at the Tea Party movement.
When Christine O’Donnell won the GOP Delaware primary, Rove went on Fox News and expressed concern about her “character,” adding she had been saying “a lot of nutty things.” Palin quickly came to O’Donnell’s defense, also on Fox News, telling Rove to “buck up.”
O’Donnell didn’t return the favor on Thursday, as she was too busy with her campaign for the Senate seat to comment, a spokesperson said. Her team did, however, emailed a note from conservative strategist and Reagan biographer, Craig Shirley. “Before criticizing Sarah Palin, Mr. Rove might remember that Ronald Reagan once hosted a couple of television shows including G.E. Theater and Death Valley Days,” Shirley said.
On Thursday, there were new hints that Palin is interested in the presidency as Entertainment Tonight promoted an upcoming interview with Palin in which she says she’ll run in 2012, “if there’s nobody else to do it.”
Whether she can win, though, is an open question. According to a poll released earlier this month, 64 percent of Americans believe she would not make an effective president.
• How to Hack Palin’s Facebook Page“What Rove is saying, and other Republicans are saying, [is that] if you look at the polls, Palin is not qualified to be president,” said Republican strategist John Feehery, adding that this may be the opening salvo in the fight for the Republican soul. “Once this election is over, we start the next campaign,” he said. “Whoever is our presidential candidate is going to be the one who’s going to be defining Republican policies,” Feehery said. “There are a lot of people who love Sarah Palin who think Karl Rove is off his rocker, and there starts the competition.”
Rove, who has raised millions of dollars for the Republican Party during this election cycle, also talked about a possible Palin candidacy as he appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday. The architect of Bush’s two election wins displayed his trademark cool.
“Look, there are going to be several geological ages that are going to come and go before the 2012 Republican presidential nomination fight gels,” he said.
Benjamin Sarlin contributed reporting to this piece
Shushannah Walshe covers politics for The Daily Beast. She is the co-author of Sarah From Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar. She was a reporter and producer at the Fox News Channel from August 2001 until the end of the 2008 presidential campaign.