Rove: GOP could take Senate in 2014 if it avoids self-destructive candidates

Former Bush adviser and GOP strategist Karl Rove says Republicans have a good chance of taking the Senate from Democrats in 2014 if they avoid nominating the types of candidates who stumbled badly in once competitive 2012 races.

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“Republican success will depend on having quality Senate candidates,” Rove wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. “Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock self-destructed last fall, and other candidates squandered important opportunities.”

Former Rep. Todd Aiken (R-Mo.) lost his Senate challenge to vulnerable incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) after controversial comments about “legitimate rape” sunk his campaign. Similarly, Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock (R-Ind.) lost to Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) in a red state after numerous gaffes, including a comment about pregnancy from rape being "something that God intended."

Republicans would need to net six seats in 2014 to take control of the upper chamber. Democrats presently hold the Senate 55 to 45, but will be defending 21 seats versus Republicans who will only be defending 14.

Rove said he’s optimistic the GOP will hold all 14 of its seats, “unless a candidate ill-suited for the general election sneaks through the primary.” He pointed to more than a dozen pick-up opportunities for Republicans in states where incumbent Democrats are retiring, where GOP nominee Mitt Romney won in 2012, or where strong candidates have already been identified as strong challengers in a winnable race.

Rove earlier this year unveiled a new super-PAC which he said would avoid the mistakes of the 2012 cycle by backing more electable candidates. His Conservative Victory Project, however, has come under fire from grassroots groups that argue that he is promoting establishment candidates and blocking conservatives, with many Tea Party groups vowing to challenge Rove-backed contenders.

Rove, though, has said he is not setting up a Tea Party versus establishment fight and only seeks to build a GOP majority.

In his op-ed, Rove also said the GOP’s success would hinge on fundraising – an area where the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee trounced their GOP counterparts by $20 million in 2012.

“Republicans won't make big pickups if there's a disparity like this in 2014,” he said.

But Rove argued that even these recommendations wouldn’t be enough. He urged Republican candidates to “offer a compelling and substantive agenda for America's economy, jobs, healthcare and fiscal situation."

Rove said GOP candidates needed to “go toe-to-toe with Democrats on ObamaCare, spending, deficits, the president's social agenda and, where appropriate, their opponent's character.”