For a long time, Karl Rove, the much-heralded GOP political strategist, has been at the forefront of opposition to Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. Not only has Rove taken advantage of several opportunities to criticize Trump on television and in print, he’s also the force behind American Crossroads, a super PAC that has been raising (and spending) millions in an effort to keep the business mogul away from the nomination.
But according to a story in Politico last week, Rove and others at American Crossroads have begun warming to the idea of a Trump nomination:
The apparent warming of the American Crossroads super PAC and its sister groups to Trump has become evident in its recent communications with donors, including a Tuesday afternoon “investor conference call,” according to multiple sources familiar with the outreach.
Politico reported that the call revealed new research that showed there were avenues through which Trump could defeat Hillary Clinton in the fall, despite his depressing favorability ratings. “Our initial review of the data indicates that, because of Hillary Clinton’s toxic vulnerabilities,” wrote the PAC’s president in an email to donors, “the presidential contest could be intensely competitive regardless of who our nominee is.”
American Crossroads wasted no time denying the veracity of the story. In an interview with The Hill, spokesman Ian Prior insisted that although the basic facts of the Politico story were correct, the super PAC was in no way “warming” to Trump.
“This was not about presenting a plan to help Trump win; it was a presentation of data showing how the current Republican front-runner fared against Hillary Clinton in a potential general election match-up,” Prior said.
As if eager to prove that he was still in the anti-Trump camp, Rove himself wrote a blistering column in the Wall Street Journal on Monday titled “Vanity Will Be The Donald’s Undoing.” In the column, he lamented Trump’s “ignorance” and accused him of “not having thought through his presidential bid.”
The criticism irked Trump, who called Rove “dishonorable” in an interview with Breitbart.
“Karl Rove writes articles and he quotes me with things I never said,” Trump said. “He actually makes up quotes and it is so disgraceful that he’s allowed to do it and he writes in the Wall Street Journal, which is a newspaper that totally misrepresents so much.”
So it will probably be a while before Trump and Rove are spreading a picnic for themselves in Central Park. Still, if the research coming out of American Crossroads is accurate, it could indicate at least some willingness among the #NeverTrump crowd to step off their high horse if they fail to stop him from securing the nomination. For anyone who believes that the ends (defeating Hillary) justify the means, that’s a reason to feel (somewhat) optimistic about November.