Updated: Dec. 7, 4:31PM
Karl Rove isn’t officially affiliated with any of the GOP candidates, but if you listen to him, it’s becoming increasingly clear he has a favorite. We’re not the first to notice, but Karl Rove seems firmly in the Mitt Romney camp. What’s more, he’s goes on TV a lot to lob attacks at just about every other candidate.
Rove has taken a stab at just about every candidate other than Romney, and on Tuesday it was Newt Gingrich’s turn. With multiple polls showing Newt Gingrich surging in Iowa, Rove took to Fox News, to undermined the former speaker:
“If in the polls newt is leading by 10 or 11 or 12 points going into the Iowa caucuses and doesn’t win by that margin people are going to say, well, he didn’t meet his mark. That is a challenge for somebody who has not built organization.”
Basically, Rove is framing the Iowa caucuses in such a way that, even if Newt wins, a victory by less than 10 points is interpreted as a loss. Rove’s point is that Gingrich has “momentum” but no “organization,” which means he is likely to underperform relative to his poll numbers, and thus that he’s all fluff. If Newt does win Iowa on January 3, expect Rove back on TV making the same argument.
Add Tuesday’s appearance to a long list of attacks against everyone but Mitt that TPM has been tracking for months now. As each candidate rises and falls, Rove is there to swat them away.
Since Newt’s rise, Rove has dedicated the last week or so to naming Newt’s flaws. Way back in October, and well before the infamous Libya flub, he questioned whether Herman Cain was “up to the task.” And when Rick Perry was considered a serious threat to Romney, Rove was quick to point out that Perry’s position on Social Security, which he called a Ponzi scheme, was politically “toxic.” (Rove would know, seeing as he was an adviser to Bush when he tried to privatize Social Security, but that’s beside the point). Perry was up-and-coming, and Rove tried to scare supporters away.
It’s one thing for Donald Trump to play Republican king-maker, but Rove’s approval comes with a lot of cash. Rove is a key player in the PAC American Crossroads, whose political director is a board member with Romney’s own super PAC, Restore Our Future — a connection that both Crossroads and Romney’s camp has say isn’t meaningful. Either way, the Rove primary is an important one to win, and while Gingrich may be surging in Iowa and South Carolina, it seems he’s got a long way to go on this one.
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.