02/13/2013 12:59 pm ET Updated Feb 13, 2013

Karl Rove's War With Steve King Only Makes King's Senate Bid More Likely

When Karl Rove embarked on his "Conservative Victory Fund" -- the fundraising arm of his broad "Campaign To Stop The Gaffes!" -- the first political figure that he publicly drew down on was Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who was then considered to be the major GOP contender for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat and famed steak-fryer Tom Harkin.

The New York Times, which reported on the advent of the Victory Fund, contained this quote from Rove's aide-de-camp, Steven Law: "We’re concerned about Steve King’s Todd Akin problem ...This is an example of candidate discipline and how it would play in a general election. All of the things he’s said are going to be hung around his neck.”

By the way, previously on How To Solve A Problem Like Steve King, Law was helping to raise $400,000 to keep him in his House seat. But never mind all that, I guess.

Well, if Rove et al. thought that firing a warning shot across Steve King's bow would create an opportunity for a more amenable candidate, like Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) -- who is arguably poised to put up a better fight in a general election against the potential Democratic field -- it seems that their criticism of King is having the opposite effect. As the Iowa Republican reports today, Rove's criticisms are making it more likely that he'll embark on a run for Harkin's seat:

Ironically, the main factor spurring King toward running is Karl Rove’s efforts to prevent him from running. Rove is a renowned GOP strategist who engineered both of George W. Bush’s successful presidential elections. Rove has formed a new group called the Conservative Victory Project. Its goal is to block controversial candidates from winning the GOP nomination in senate races.


“If I would back up in front of Karl Rove’s initiative, that would just empower him, and he would go on state after state, candidate after candidate,” King said. “I don’t think any individual has the wisdom to make those kinds of decisions, but I think Iowans together can make those decisions and should. That’s the principle. We have to fight this out in the court of public opinion.”

In order to successfully portray himself as a counterweight to the GOP establishment -- a neat trick for someone who's been in Washington for a decade -- King is courting help from the conservative grassroots. At last night's State of the Union address, King's invited guest was Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, which is considering getting behind a King bid.

Regardless of who ultimately wins or loses the Iowa Senate race, this little internecine war between insiders and outsiders is definitely going to make a lot of people a lot of money. As Alex Pareene points out, this is basically the whole point of "GOP infighting," anyway.

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Karl Rove Through The Years