Karl Rove is at it again. Recently, the formidable Republican strategist created the Conservative Victory Project, a new super political action committee PAC dedicated to preventing Republican meltdowns in general elections. If Karl Rove wants to create a new super PAC, let him. It is his right to spend unlimited funds wrecking his own party’s chances.
The 2012 election was a disaster for Republicans, despite the rise of super PACs following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010. Two races were particularly noteworthy: the Senate races in Missouri and Indiana.
In early August, Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, led his opponent Democrat incumbent Claire McCaskill by a double-digit margin in the polls. On Aug. 19, Todd Akin asserted his belief that if the female body is raped, it has ways of “shutting that whole thing down.” Out of nowhere, the term “legitimate rape” popped up in election coverage around the country, and McCaskill pulled ahead by 10 percentage points in polls almost overnight. Political pundits thought this dramatic shift would serve as a warning for other Republican candidates to use extreme caution when discussing such sensitive topics.
But on Oct. 23, in the Indiana Senate race, the vicious campaign-killer appeared again when, in a televised debate between Republican Richard Murdoch and Joe Donnelly, a “blue-dog” Democrat, the candidates were asked if they supported abortion. Both men said no; however, Murdoch went above and beyond by elaborating on his position, claiming that pregnancy from rape was a “gift from God.” Donnelly won the election by a 6-point margin in a race determined largely by women.
Both doomed candidates were backed by Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC. In fact, every candidate who Rove supported lost. Despite spending $103 million on campaigns, American Crossroads had a success rate of less than one percent. On a larger scale, super PACs spent about $500 million in the 2012 election. The political changes were negligible: Two states changed hands in the presidential campaign, and the Republicans lost seats in both chambers.
Republican primary candidates may now be on the run from the Conservative Victory Project. Republican leaders, especially at the state level, are arguing that Karl Rove should stay out of elections, that the people should decide the candidates. However, Rove is in the right on this issue. He has the right to voice opinions through super PACs and should use them to elect more moderate Republicans. State-level elections are the most susceptible to radical factions. Rove is only cutting the right wing radicals from the party to push the party back to the middle.
In my home state of Georgia, Sen. Saxby Chambliss announced his retirement from politics. As a Democrat, I appreciated Chambliss’ willingness to compromise. Tea Party candidates are now gearing up to take his seat, yet our Congress cannot take anymore factioning. America needs statesmen, not popular Tea Party demagogues, which is what Rove is trying to do with his super PAC.
But super PACs do not do anything, and Rove’s new super PAC will be no exception. If he wants to influence elections, he has a better chance of doing so by stopping recounts in Florida and disrupting results in Ohio. The 2012 election results demonstrate that political ads don’t change minds, that candidates must be statesmen, not political basket cases and that the American public are not sheep.
Money cannot buy happiness. Money cannot buy elections either.