Karl Rove doesn't want it to be this way. He doesn't want outside groups like his own to have so much power. "I like stronger parties, rather than weaker parties," Rove tells Bloomberg Businessweek's Paul Barrett, "but the campaign finance reforms of the last 40 years have tended to weaken parties and strengthen outside groups… I’m focused on operating within the system we have." Rove operates within the system we have much like the parasitic wasp, a genius insect which stings a cockroach in the brain so it can turn it into a zombie and lead it through the desert like a dog on a leash. Like a successful -- but benevolent! -- parasite, it is hard to know where Rove starts and the Republican Party begins. Barrett writes:
When Romney hosted a gala retreat for individual contributors at a Utah resort in late June, Rove spoke on a panel and mingled as a featured guest. Presumably, he did not coordinate with the campaign, but how would you categorize what he did do? As noted, Crossroads co-founder Gillespie, who has his own consulting firm, is now working for Romney. Crossroads’ political director, Carl Forti, helped start and advises the Romney-devoted super PAC Restore Our Future. There is no shortage of cross-pollination.
Rove has been portrayed as an over-the-top bad guy by liberals, but it is remarkable how extensive his influence has been on the Republican Party. In the 2000s, from inside the White House, Rove sought to establish a durable Republican majority by chipping away at the Democratic coalition through specific policies. As Josh Green wrote for The Atlantic in 2009, those included education reforms (for women) and immigration reforms (for Latinos). It didn't work out. Now that his party's out of the White House, he's working to get that majority through TV ads and Crossroads GPS.
In 2010, Rove killed the old culture of outside officially-not-politicial-but-obviously-totally-political groups and replaced it with the creation of Crossroads GPS. There were the single issue groups, like Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and there were rich men's hobby groups, run by a single strategist who would rake in ridiculous fees. Rove sought to install a more permanent group that would appeal to swing voters, not just conservatives. And he wanted all these groups to share polling and information to cut redundancy.
Aside from his TV ads, Rove influences the party through his Fox News and Wall Street Journal gigs. Liberals have long viewed his commentating there as purely cynical -- important not for what they say, but for "what they reveal." But his writing hasn't been trickery, but real tips about where he wants to push the party. Barrett notes that after writing July 19 that Romney needed to condemn Obama's attacks in his tax returns, and the next day, a Crossroads ad did exactly that.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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