Karl Rove could have called it a day after successfully re-electing George W. Bush in 2004. It could have been the capstone on one of the most successful and substantive careers in modern American politics. Rove would have left a master strategist feared by his enemies, admired by his friends, and mythologized by observers of all persuasions.
Instead Rove hung around too long and embarrassed himself.
After raising hundreds of millions of dollars from Republican donors on the promise that Mitt Romney would be president Rove had a public meltdown on election night refusing to concede the state of Ohio to President Obama. It was not confidence inspiring as a legacy of political mastery was superseded by video footage of severe desperation and incompetence.
And now, still not getting the message that it’s time to exit the stage, Rove is causing a civil war within the Republican Party.
Karl Rove has spent a week explaining himself – to Republicans.
Since he announced plans Feb. 4 to spend money in Republican congressional primaries to promote “electable” candidates, Rove has been trying to put out a grass-roots blaze that has conservative activists crying “civil war” with establishment Republicans.
Rove in essence is reasserting himself as kingmaker in a party that has suffered considerable electoral defeats partly due to the Bush legacy. Through this new venture Rove hopes to be able to vet candidates for public office and, if they do not meet his satisfaction, disqualify them.
Not surprisingly, the Tea Party is furious.
Tea Party groups, talk-radio hosts and conservative activists, seeing the new group as an attempt to thwart the will of conservative primary voters, reacted furiously in the media, on conservative websites and, of course, on Twitter, where the backlash has its own hashtag: #CrushRove.
“Who died and made Karl Rove queen for a day?” barked radio talker Mark Levin.
If the unrest Rove is creating continues not only will conservatives revolt against Republican candidates but the party could split in two if Tea Partiers feel they have no voice. Rove could destroy the party he hoped to build into a permanent majority, quite a legacy for the former master.