I just got one such solicitation from a Rove critic, an email from Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell, the 2010 failed GOP senate candidate from Delaware, who was raising money off of the Rove outrage. (You remember O’Donnell as the candidate who had to deny that she was a witch.) Hers was a race of just the type Rove is trying to shape. Had Mike Castle been the GOP nominee, he’d probably be Sen. Castle right now. Rove believes that candidates like O’Donnell gave away likely seats in Nevada, Colorado, Indiana, and Missouri during the last two election cycles. The GOP might control the Senate today if sharper candidates had prevailed.
This line of thinking outrages movement conservatives and Tea Party activists. They chalk up the defeats to the liberal media, which lampooned true conservatives by fixating on their minor missteps. By pledging to support more electable candidates, Rove is buying in to the frame that the media puts around true conservatives.
This theory may be reasonable or it may be poppycock. Either way, Rove’s detractors should thank him for bringing the debate into the open. Rove’s new effort is good for the Tea Party in the way that doubters are good for religions. No faith worthy of its Sunday parishioners crumbles under a challenge. Leaving aside whether Rove is really challenging the core of Tea Party beliefs, his efforts force those who hold a different view into being clearer about what they believe. Only if they go through that process can they make their case to Republicans who aren’t already true believers. Plus, if they can’t beat Karl Rove at the internal game, they’re not going to be able to beat the Democrats.