WASHINGTON — The internal conflicts that have roiled the Republican Party since its dismal showing in November appear to be deepening as conservative activists and tea party officials have begun to resist an establishment effort to blame them for the GOP's 2012 troubles.
The nation's largest tea party organization is launching a new federal political action committee, Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, aimed at challenging GOP incumbents and other establishment candidates to adopt more conservative positions.
"If we are going to change Washington and save America, the tea party movement must hold every politician who supports higher taxes and even higher spending accountable — regardless of their political party. If that means we have to defeat some of these big-government politicians in primaries, so be it," said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, in a statement released Friday.
The move appeared to be a direct response to an effort by strategist Karl Rove and other GOP establishment figures who have started a new group to wrest control of the Republican Party from candidates and activists whom they view as unelectable and harmful to the party's future.
After spending more than $300 million in what was widely regarded as a losing effort in the 2012 elections, Rove and his fundraising allies have launched the Conservative Victory Project to help fight primary battles, especially for the Senate, against candidates they think will hurt the party's chances in the 2014 midterms.
Many Republicans think that the party blew a chance to take control of the Senate in 2012 by offering candidates who were too flawed to win.
The tea party disagrees with that view. "Karl Rove is trying to rebrand himself so people will forget all the losses in 2012," Martin said. "But he sounds like big-daddy government: 'I know what's best, you need to listen to us and do what we say.' It is the antithesis of what the GOP stands for. Primary voters want to pick their candidates."