The recent on-air battle between Fox News contributors Karl Rove and Sarah Palin has not escaped notice among Republican Party watchers, sparking mixed reactions from at least three longtime Washington political observers.
Morton Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call and a Fox News contributor, called the battle "fascinating" and backed Rove, while Matthew Dowd, an ABC News analyst and former Bush strategist, gave Palin credit for taking on Rove and distancing herself from the GOP's past.
"It is fascinating, a conflict within the Republican Party," Kondracke told me about the Palin/Rove feud. "But where it leads, I don't know."
Kondracke adds: "I think she's got a chance, she is a phenom and she's got a following. But I have said I think she is a joke. I basically think Rove is right -- I admire him for saying what he believes out in public and not behind closed doors."
Dowd took another approach, saying Rove's criticisms only help Palin.
"The best thing for Sarah is to get Karl into some kind of high-profile spat with her. Every time she gets into a fight with Karl, she gains."
He said Rove's criticism of Palin is a positive for her because it distances her from the GOP's past leadership: "If he wants to help her, the thing he is doing will help her.
"Whoever the nominee is, it will not be holding hands with Karl. It will be someone who is not part of the past Republican Party. There has to be a disconnect from Bush. Karl is viewed as part of the Republican establishment."
Dowd added, "She is not the only one, but she has the ability to excite enthusiasm among a huge piece of the Republican base."
"I have questioned her qualifications, but her ability to speak to the crowd, welcoming outsiders, matches up as well as anybody."
The on-air battle, which has played out on several Fox News programs, is part of the fallout from Fox's controversial use of five paid on-air contributors who have expressed interest in seeking the Republican nomination for president.
In addition to Palin, they include Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, John Bolton and Rick Santorum.
A key force in the on-air friction was an October 31 Politico article reporting that Rove seems to be among GOP leaders who are on a "mission" to "halt" Palin's "momentum and credibility," viewing her potential 2012 presidential nomination as a "disaster in waiting."
The Palin/Rove rift has also shown itself in several other ways. Among them:
* In an October 27 article, the U.K. Telegraph reported: "Expressing the strongest public reservations about the conservative star made by any senior Republican figure, Mr Rove said it was unlikely that voters would regard someone starring in a reality show as presidential material." The Telegraph quoted Rove suggesting that Palin lacks "a certain level of gravitas" required to be elected president.
* On the October 31 edition of Fox News' On the Record, Palin discussed both the Politico article claiming that GOP leaders are concerned about Palin and Rove's comments in The Telegraph. Palin stated that Rove "has planted a few other political seeds out there that are quite negative and unnecessary" and added: "You know what? I kind of feel like, why do they feel so threatened and so paranoid?" Palin also said that Rove falsely called her upcoming television series a "reality show."
* On the October 31 edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Palin about Rove's comments in The Telegraph that "there are high standards that the American people have for it [the presidency] and they require a certain level of gravitas." Palin responded: "You know, I agree with that, that those standards have to be high for someone who would ever want to run for president, like, umm, wasn't Ronald Reagan an actor? Wasn't he in Bedtime for Bonzo, Bozo?"
The two have also sparred over Tea Party senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell, who recently lost her general election bid for the Delaware senate seat. Palin supported and endorsed O'Donnell, while Rove questioned her background and credentials.
Another veteran Republican political consultant, Mark McKinnon, declined to choose sides in the Rove/Palin feud, but said it is tantamount to an attention-getting fire.
"Friction creates sparks. Sparks create fires. Fires create attention. Attention creates interest. Interest is good," McKinnon wrote in an e-mail.
He also noted, "Karl Rove is the brains of the Republican party. Sarah Palin is the heart of the Tea Party movement. There are bound to be conflicts and dynamic tension, but combined it's a pretty powerful combination."