Amidst CPAC rhetoric, an effort to mend rift

Amidst the fiery rhetoric at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) regarding the split between establishment and grassroots wings of the Republican Party, some insiders are working to thaw relations.

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Steven Law, head of the Conservative Victory Project (CVP), a Karl-Rove-backed super PAC that aims to engage in Republican primaries in 2014, said at CPAC that the group hopes to work with critics.

“In the discussions we’ve had [with critics], I’ve sort of said privately what I’ve said up here as well: That our goal, certainly, at the first level, is to try to collaborate, try to share information, and where possible,  to build consensus on who the best candidates are. And if there is a disagreement, we’ll have that honestly,” he told reporters this week.

CVP was formed by Karl Rove and his allies following disappointing losses in 2012 due to what some Republicans saw as poor candidate quality. The group will engage in primaries to help elect, Law has said, the most electable conservatives.

But the effort has sparked backlash from grassroots groups who see it as another attempt by the establishment wing of the party to meddle in primaries.

Groups like Club for Growth, Tea Party Patriots, FreedomWorks, the Senate Conservatives Fund and ForAmerica have slammed the CVP.

However, Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller confirmed that Club President Chris Chocola had spoken with Law, and suggested that the Club may be willing to work with the CVP in the future.

“The mission of the Club's PAC is to elect pro-growth fiscal conservatives to Congress, which sometimes conflicts with the goals of the Republican establishment. We hope we're on the same side more often than not. But if we're on opposite sides, that's ok with us too,” Keller said in an email to The Hill.

Chocola previously criticized the logic behind the CVP, telling The Hill shortly after the group’s formation that “they almost never get it right when they focus strictly on this electability standard in a vacuum.”

The Club’s openness to working with the CVP — and Law’s indication that he’s seeking some of those critics out for cooperation — potentially marks a shift in what has thus far been a largely contentious relationship between the establishment and grassroots wings of the GOP.


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At CPAC, Law seemed to be trying to smooth over the rift, suggesting that Republican criticism of conservative candidates in 2012 had been misplaced.

“I think some of the sensitivity has been that sometimes there's a tendency just to blame conservative candidates, which I think is unfortunate and shouldn't be done,” he said.

And Law said he believes there is agreement that the GOP had a candidate quality problem in 2012, and “once we establish that as a predicate, I think we can have a better discussion about who those better candidates are that we gotta find.”

He acknowledged that “there will be some disagreement...but I think we all recognize that, if possible, we ough to try to agree, try to find the right candidate and be supportive.”

But Law uttered those words at a conference at which speaker after speaker railed against the Republican establishment and the consultant class, with Sarah Palin calling for attendees to “furlough the consultants, and tune out the pollsters, send the focus groups home and toss the political scripts.”

And representatives for the Tea Party Patriots, the Senate Conservatives Fund, FreedomWorks and ForAmerica all said they hadn’t heard from Law.

“I've never spoken to him or anyone at Crossroads, so I really don't know what he's talking about,” said Matt Hoskins of the Senate Conservatives Fund.

“If they want to help, they could start by exposing [Democratic Sen.] Mark Pryor's record in Arkansas. They seem to be so focused on defeating conservatives in Republican primaries, they're not doing much to help us defeat Democrats,” he added. Pryor is one of the group’s top targets in 2014.

Brent Bozell, the head of ForAmerica, said he hadn’t heard from Rove or anyone affiliated with the Conservative Victory Project. His speech at CPAC slammed the establishment and called the CVP “the ultimate in cynical arrogance.” But the conservative firebrand told The Hill that he’d be open to working with groups that he referred to as “moderates.”

“I’m willing to break bread with moderates, but it’s going to be on our terms now,” he said.

CVP spokesman Jonathan Collegio told The Hill that the CVP had reached out to some groups involved in primaries, but didn’t offer details on which ones. He said that the group is hoping to continue its outreach to “groups that want to win.”

“We've talked to groups and individuals that have a role in primaries about how we can nominate stronger conservative candidates, and we will be widening those discussions with groups that want to win,” he said.

--This piece was updated at 9:49 p.m. to reflect Karl Rove's affiliation with the CVP.

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