Karl Rove Won 9 Races and Lost 21…Would You Donate to One of His Groups?

Sunday, November 11, 2012
(photo: The Daily Show)

Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better, or is this real?

-Megyn Kelly to Karl Rove on Election Night on Fox News


With a budget of more than $175 million and a 9-21 losing record this campaign season to show for it, politico Karl Rove is facing tough questions and outright criticism from the millionaires and billionaires who paid for his work and expected better results. Although many observers rightly expected a deluge of pro-Republican corporate money to flood the 2012 election campaign, predictions of GOP victories predicated on those funds—including by Rove himself—proved wildly off the mark.


Rove, often called “Bush’s Brain” for his role as strategic architect of George W. Bush’s two successful campaigns for the presidency, founded and ran two political groups during the 2012 election cycle: American Crossroads, a super-PAC that spent $105 million and went 3-10, and Crossroads GPS, its “nonprofit” counterpart that spent $71 million and went 7-17. The groups were both active in a few contests, yielding a combined 9-21 record.


Sources inside the Crossroads Empire insist that donors have so far responded with “nothing negative, no recriminations or blame,” as Minnesota media mogul Stan Hubbard insisted to reporters at Politico. Rove himself now says that, despite his frequent predictions that Republicans would win big, his efforts were actually directed at minimizing the scope of the Democratic victory. Asked on Election Night if Crossroads’ spending was “worth it,” Rove claimed that “if groups like Crossroads were not active, this race would have been over a long time ago.”


Nevertheless, some donors have criticized Crossroads for the inaccuracy of its polling and for prioritizing television advertising over efforts to get voters to the polls. Rick Tyler, a top adviser to Todd Akin’s failed Missouri Senate campaign, called Crossroads’ efforts “a colossal failure,” and said that Rove “has a lot of explaining to do, mostly to his donors. I don’t think donors are ever going to invest in that level again because it turns out that the architect didn’t know what he was talking about,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.


On the tactical question of advertising versus ground game, donors—encouraged by rival Republican political operatives—are starting to question Rove’s bias in favor of the former. Drew Ryun, who helped start or run two Republican groups—the Madison Project and American Majority Action—that focused almost exclusively on ground organizing, claims that, “folks like Karl Rove and [his protegé ] Carl Forti are going to take a beating.” Rove’s groups spent exclusively on advertising.


Reflecting Ryun’s view, Wyoming mega-donor Foster Friess told reporters he was planning to focus his spending away from television ads and toward grass-roots organizing. “I’m not a big fan of TV ads — they’re just too quick. They are sound bites.”

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Rove-Affiliated Groups Spend $175 million, Lose 21 of 30 Races (by Michael Beckel, Center for Public Integrity)

Karl Rove under Fire (by Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico)

Karl Rove Group Pours Anonymous Millions into Anti-Obama Ads (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Forget Super PACs; Big Campaign Financing is Coming from “Social Welfare” Nonprofits (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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