A lot has happened in the two weeks since Democrat Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) announced he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2014, and most of it is good news for fellow Iowan and Republican Congressman Steve King. And King has none other than Karl Rove to thank for it.
I spoke with a couple of very connected and committed Iowa conservatives right after the Harkin announcement, and both of them told me that while they’d love to see the fiery King replace Harkin in the stodgy Senate, they were also sceptical he could win a statewide election. But after seeing Karl Rove and the party establishment publicly proclaim themselves the grassroots gatekeepers, those same people are hoping King jumps in with both feet.
Gone is the disappointment I was hearing from conservatives wondering why King wasn’t more vocal in opposing the Fiscal Cliff tax increase, as well as his vote afterwards to retain John Boehner for Speaker. Gone are the references to King’s vote for NDAA that were once a constant from Rand Paul-style conservatarians every time I mentioned him on my radio show or Facebook wall. Also gone is all the debate within the grassroots about what to do next after another election loss to Barack Obama.
Instead, Rove’s ham-fisted power play has successfully – and ironically – unified all the various factions within conservatism. By making King the poster-child in The New York Times for his anti-grassroots initiative, Rove has actually done more to boost King’s chances of winning the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in my home state than King could’ve ever dreamt of doing on his own.
Case in point: last week I got a call from a reporter from The Washington Post asking me for my take on whether Rove or King would win this internal party struggle. I told that reporter that if I were running King’s campaign committee, I’d be raising money off of all this because at this point Rove is about as popular with the Republican base as the mainstream media is. Imagine King saying, “I’m the guy the ruling class in both parties doesn’t want to run, send me money and send them a message that we won’t be bullied by beltway insiders.” About 15 minutes after I got off the phone with this reporter, I checked Twitter only to find that Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times had tweeted King was now doing exactly that.
Rove and his cabal, with its 1% success rate in the 2012 election cycle, believe they’re on a mission of mercy to save the party from “nutcases” like me. Grassroots conservatives like me think he’s a saboteur. Regardless of which perspective you hold the result is the same. Rove is really a kamikaze. He may think that by crashing his plane into the grassroots’ aircraft carrier he’ll sink our ship, but it’s his vessel that blows up first upon impact.
The surge in King’s Senate prospects is empirical proof of this. If King followed Democrat Bruce Braley’s lead and announced early he was officially in, I’m not sure any other Republican would challenge him. Not even an establishment Republican. Would you want to be the candidate carrying Karl Rove’s scarlet letter into that primary? There’s baggage, and then there’s Rove. At this point Rove’s baggage has baggage.
The absolute dumbest thing Rove could’ve done was come out of the shadows and leave the cozy confines of Fox News, where Rupert Murdoch has afforded Rove a national platform for his establishment propaganda the past few years. By coming out into the open and rubbing our noses in this so publicly, Rove is making my job as an anti-establishment rabble-rouser much easier.
Those like me who have been saying for years we can’t ever defeat the Democrats until we first defeat their de facto human shields in the Republican Party establishment are no longer divisive. Now we’re trailblazing revolutionaries because Rove is proving we were right about he and his ilk all this time.
That’s why I come not to bury Kamikaze Rove but to praise him. He’s the anti-establishment gift that keeps on giving. The best way to fire up the base after a disappointing election cycle is for Rove to keep doing exactly what he’s doing.
From Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: “When your enemy is in the process of destroying himself, get out of his way and let him.”
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