Karl Rove appeared on Fox News' Hannity to defend his new group, the Conservative Victory Project, against complaints from fellow conservatives that it would undermine the Tea Party movement. Rove, a Fox News contributor who regularly appears on the network advance his political agenda, insisted that the group is not an attempt to protect the GOP establishment over Tea Party candidates, but to promote "the most conservative candidate that can win."
The New York Times reported on February 2 that the Conservative Victory Project , which is backed by Rove and his allies who were also involved in his American Crossroads super PAC, is "the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense of discipline on the party."
During the February 5 edition of Hannity, host Sean Hannity noted that Rove's new effort has "drawn the ire of conservatives and the Tea Party," who are "accusing Karl Rove of putting the establishment ahead of conservative principles." Indeed, conservative media figures have been vocal about their opposition to Rove's new anti-Tea Party project.
Hannity expressed his own concern about the group, saying to Rove: "My fear is, is that if Karl Rove is fighting the Tea Party and conservatives are battling establishment candidates ... I am concerned that we're going to lose."
Rove denied that he was protecting establishment Republicans from Tea Party challengers, but referred to Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, who both lost their 2012 Senate races after making incendiary comments about rape, as examples of the need to recruit and champion "better" conservative candidates. From the February 5 edition of Hannity:
ROVE: This is not to protect incumbent Republicans. It's to get in races where it is important to have a winning candidate. It is to try and find the most conservative candidate who can win, the so-called Buckley rule. Our job is not to protect incumbents, it is to win races by stopping the practice of giving away some of the seats like we did in Missouri and in Indiana this past year and that may mean telling the incumbent Republican that if he is going be in the race he shouldn't expect any funds from Crossroads in the general election.
If people, some people think the best we can do is Todd Mourdock -- Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, they are wrong. We need to do better if we hope to take over the United States Senate. We need to get better conservative candidates and win.
Rove also used the segment to say that "Crossroads is second to none in our support of Tea Party candidates," noting that in the past two election cycles the super PAC spent $30 million on Tea Party Senate candidates and almost $20 million on Tea Party House candidates.
Crossroads spent nearly $104 million on Republican candidates in the 2012 general election, but saw just a 1.29 percent return on that investment, according to the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation. Conservative pundit (and recent Fox News hire) Erick Erickson made this point in his criticism of Rove's new group, writing on his RedState blog, "Thank God they are behind this. In 2012, they spent hundreds of millions of rich donors' money and had jack to show for it."
This is not the first time Rove has used Fox News as a platform to promote his political agenda. During the 2012 election cycle, Rove was a consistent presence on the network, often parroting the talking points from his own super PAC ads.
Rove also regularly appears in the pages of The Wall Street Journal as a columnist, often to promote the agenda of American Crossroads, yet during election season his relationship to the political organization was rarely disclosed.