Steven J. Law, the president of the super PAC American Crossroads, is the man behind the Conservative Victory Project, a new effort aimed at supporting conservative candidates whom it deems capable of winning general elections — and opposing those it deems incapable of that task. Law told the New York Times on Sunday,“We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent-protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.”
Law spoke to National Review Online’s Jim Geraghty Wednesday afternoon.
Jim Geraghty: You guys have stirred up quite a reaction since the New York Times article Sunday. So, think of this as a second shot: What do you want to tell the conservative grass roots about the Conservative Victory Project, and is there anything that’s gotten misconstrued since that piece appeared?
Steven Law: I actually didn’t think the New York Times piece was that far off. I think it ended up being misinterpreted following the initial reporting.
We start from a premise that almost anybody can agree with: that 2012 was a really tough year for Republicans, for conservatives, and from my perspective, for the country. It’s the sort of election we don’t want to see repeated again. And we’re engaged in some very serious critical analysis of what went wrong and what can be improved upon, and that starts with us. We’re reevaluating how we run ads, how we use research, all those sorts of things. As a result, we’ll do some things much better in the next cycle.
But in addition to that, one of the things we encountered was candidates on our side who just weren’t competitive for a variety of reasons.
Looking back at our investments last cycle — and looking back to 2010, where I think there were some weaknesses masked by what was otherwise a very strong year, we saw that we faced a problem of candidate quality that we think we need to address. A lot of the focus has been on candidates who were much more conservative than others, but only because some of them self-destructed so spectacularly — and I’m thinking in particular of Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana — but there were plenty of weaknesses from candidates across the spectrum, including those who might be thought of as establishment candidates.
Republican candidates for Senate were outraised by their Democratic counterparts by $60 million. Fundraising is not the only measure of competitiveness, but we were also way behind the other side in terms of preparation and candidate execution.
Our goal is twofold: to significantly increase the quality of candidates, and, as part of that, to find and support the most conservative candidate who can win — as we put it, institutionalizing the Buckley rule.
Over the last two cycles, we’ve invested over $30 million trying to elect very conservative and tea-party-backed candidates to the Senate. When you add in the House, it gets closer to about $50 million, which makes us one of the biggest investors in very conservative and tea-party candidates. We’re the kind of people who put our money where our mouth is.
We’ve been proud supporters of people like Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, and Rand Paul. We were actually very active in Missouri and Indiana this time. But we want to find more people like Rubio and Paul and Toomey, and avoid situations where candidates implode or can’t put together viable campaigns — and again, that’s regardless of where they are on the political spectrum. We’ve found problems all across the spectrum.