Karl Rove's attack operation, American Crossroads, probably expected some pushback when it launched the Conservative Victory Project, intended to help discourage the Republican Party's right wing from nominating unelectable loons who lose general-election races. But I suspect the reaction from the far-right is far more intense than anything Rove's team imagined.
Yesterday, for example, Crossroads spokesperson Jonathan Collegio appeared on DC-area radio show and described L. Brent Bozell, a prominent far-right activist, as a "hater."
Now, for folks below a certain age, "hater" refers to those who are frequently negative. It appears that's not quite how Bozell and his allies took it.
A group of conservative leaders has signed an irate letter demanding that a Republican political consultant be fired for calling the relatively undistinguished scion of a prominent political family a "hater."
Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for the Karl Rove-affiliated political action committee American Crossroads, used the epithet when discussing L. Brent Bozell, the nephew of former Sen. James Buckley and deceased National Review founder William F. Buckley, during an appearance on a local radio show Wednesday.
The letter, which is being circulated by the Washington, D.C. based public relations shop Shirley & Banister, calls Bozell "a beloved and critically important player in American history."
The letter adds that an apology from Collegio would be deemed "not acceptable." Among the signatories are Mark Levin, Richard Viguerie, Phyllis Schlafly, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, Rick Scarborough, Frank Gaffney, and Ginni Thomas (yes, that Ginni Thomas).
I should note that describing Bozell as "a beloved and critically important player in American history" is deeply silly, and I have a strong hunch that the conservatives who signed the letter know exactly what Collegio meant by the comment -- it was not accusing Bozell of being a hateful bigot. But this is actually a proxy fight.
The right is livid over Rove's group creating the Conservative Victory Project, and they're looking for opportunities to put Crossroads on the defensive. Indeed, the activists' letter is unsubtle on this point, concluding, "You obviously mean to have a war with conservatives and the Tea Party. Let it start here."
Based on everything we've seen this week, the fight is going to get worse before it gets better.
The strategist Karl Rove and his allies are under withering criticism for creating the Conservative Victory Project, their effort to help rebuild the Republican Party and win control of the Senate. Their pledge to take sides in primary races in an effort to pick candidates they see as more electable has set off a fierce backlash from conservative activists.
"This is not Tea Party versus establishment," Mr. Rove said, defending his new project on Fox News. "I don't want a fight."
Yet a fight has broken out this week across the conservative media spectrum, with Mr. Rove drawing the ire of Tea Party leaders and commentators who suggest that he and other party strategists are the problem, rather than the solution, to the challenges facing Republicans.
David Bossie, president of the conservative group Citizens United, declared yesterday, "The Civil War Has Begun." FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe added, "This is a little bit like gang warfare right now."
For its part, Rove's operation has begun reassuring rich donors that the Crossroads operation will protect contributors' anonymity. In 2012, Crossroads said it wanted to keep donors' names secret so they wouldn't face reprisals from the left. In 2013, it would appear secrecy is needed to protect Rove's rich friends from the right.