It’s hard to argue with Nate Silver’s data. Unless Karl Rove is very careful, his Conservative Victory Project super PAC is likely to be counterproductive. The record is pretty clear that conservative anti-establishment candidates have not needed much money to achieve an almost 50% success rate in Senate primaries since 2010. The GOP’s preferred candidates have been dropping like flies despite having huge advantages in resources, so having Rove toss them a million extra dollars isn’t likely to help much. However, it will help the insurgents raise their profile and raise money in protest. The insurgents don’t need much money to compete, but they do need some. The more free media they get, the less money they need, but Rove’s intervention is likely to increase both.
Mr. Silver gets to the heart of the problem with this:
The voters who do turn out in Republican Senate primaries are likely to be highly informed consumers of conservative-friendly news media outlets such as talk radio, prime-time shows on Fox News and conservative magazines and blogs. They may also weigh the endorsements of prominent conservative politicians and organizations. An insurgent candidate who is presented in a favorable light in these outlets may have plenty of ability to reach her target voters, even if she is spending little or nothing on paid advertisements and outreach efforts.
Mr. Rove’s efforts could backfire, therefore, if they result in the insurgent candidate receiving more sympathetic treatment through these channels; the amount of so-called “earned media” that the insurgent receives could outweigh the extra advertisements that the establishment candidate is able to afford.
And so we are back to a theme we keep hitting. The mighty right-wing wurlitzer has turned from an advantage to a liability. By making conservatives stupid, right-wing media makes people stop aligning their interests with any sane strategy or set of policies. They don’t care what Karl Rove thinks anymore. They care what Ted Nugent thinks.
Until the GOP establishment fixes that problem, they’re doomed.