Karl Rove defends new group sending shockwaves through GOP

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," February 5, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: A battle between conservatives and the GOP establishment may soon hit critical mass. Now, the issue is a new group called the Conservative Victory Project, started by Karl Rove and the super-PAC American Crossroads. It is drawing the ire of conservatives and the Tea Party.

Now, in just a minute, Karl Rove will be joining me to respond. But first, the goal of this group is to protect incumbent Republicans against primary challengers and avoid what they say are losses like the GOP saw in 2012 when conservative candidates like Todd Akin and Richard Murdock lost what were largely seen as winnable races.

Now, conservatives and Tea Party members, they're responding by accusing Karl Rove of putting the establishment ahead of conservative principles.

Here with his side of the story, Fox News contributor the architect Karl Rove. Brother Rove, welcome back, sir.

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me. Let me start by correcting you, you got something badly wrong there. This is not to protect incumbent Republicans. It is to get in races where it is important to have a winning candidate. It is to try and find the most conservative candidate who can win the so called Buckley rule.

Our job is not to protect incumbents it is to win races by stopping the practice of giving away some of the seats like we did in Missouri and Indiana this past year and that may mean telling the incumbent Republican that if he is going be in the race, he shouldn't expect any funds from Crossroads in the general election.

HANNITY: Listen, I wanted Todd Akin to get out of the race after he made that huge blunder. But there were other Tea Party conservatives, for example, Governor Palin supported a woman in that race.

ROVE: Deb Steelman who would have won -- who had been elected state treasurer, did not have the baggage that Todd Akin had. It is amazing to me that people think Todd Akin is the best we could have come up with. He wasn't even a Tea Partier. He is one of the biggest advocates of earmarks in the Congress and for some reason or another, we've got a bunch of Tea Party people for their own reasons, Tea Party professionals who are out there trying to suggest that he was the best we could come up with.

But look, I want to be clear about this. Crossroads is second to none in our support of Tea Party candidates. In 2010 and '12, we spent over $30 million for Senate candidates who were Tea Party candidates. We spent almost $20 million for House candidates who were Tea Party candidates.

Let me give you an example of our support. We spent $2.9 million for Marco Rubio more than any other group. We spent $2.7 million for Ron Paul. We spent $5.1 million for Sharron Angle in Nevada. We spent $8 million in Colorado for Ken Buck. We spent $1.4 million in Pennsylvania for Pat Toomey, the former president of Club for Growth. We spent more money on his behalf than the group that he used to head. And then in 2012 we spent $5.9 million in Indiana for Murdock and

$3.3 million in Missouri. We ran ads up until the point where Akin made his stupid comment.

Now, our donors say to us, look, we don't mind giving money but why are we backing candidates like Akin? Why are we stuck in the general election with candidates like Akin when we have people like Deb Steelman and others.

HANNITY: But there was conservatives like me before the deadline, I was begging somebody like Todd Akin to get out of the race.

The only thing I fear, maybe, Karl -- I read the article. It reads differently than you are explaining it frankly, the New York Times article.

ROVE: It was written by the New York Times. It was written by the New York Times reporter.

HANNITY: All right. But that is why you are here. But I want to ask you this. This is really important. Because there is the Reagan 11th commandment. You have seen the reaction of Tea Party groups and my friend Mark Levin was excoriating you on radio yesterday.

I look at the Tea Party movement -- I consider myself a Tea Party conservative. Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio. We got Tim Scott. Deb Fischer. Mike Lee. Ron Johnson. Pat Toomey. There are instances there in the case of Toomey going back to 2004 or 2000, Specter was chosen by the establishment over Toomey.

ROVE: Well, he was the incumbent, he was the incumbent and President Bush did support him.

Well, look, here is the deal. I supported Pat Toomey when he ran in 2010. I gave him money in September of 2009 because I wanted him to be the U.S. senator. I personally contributed my own money.


ROVE: -- to Marco Rubio in October of 2009. You mentioned Tim Scott. Tim Scott was in a tough primary with a lot of quote establishment Republicans. I gave him money, my own personal check in June of 2010. Crossroads not involved in primaries, but I personally backed him because I liked him a lot. You talk about Deb Fischer this year, we were the biggest outside group spending in Nebraska in order to make sure that Deb Fischer won.

HANNITY: So, there seems to be a misunderstanding. Now, this is important because look, I want to win, Karl. And if -- and my fear is that if Karl Rove is fighting the Tea Party and conservatives are battling establishment candidates -- by the way which happened with Charlie Crist and Marco. I am concerned that we are going to lose --

ROVE: That's right.


Yes, look, first of all. First of all, our object is not to be for the establishment. It is to be for the most conservative candidate who can win and if we were involved in 2009 and '10 in primaries, I would suspect that we would have been involved on behalf of Marco Rubio because he was the most conservative candidate who could win. This is not Tea Party versus establishment.

I think it's interesting, the groups that have mostly gone on with their little e-mails and fund raising pitches are groups that are not like Crossroads, in that they are fund raising entities where most of the money gets sucked up into overhead and goes into the pocket of the person who owns the website or owns the political action committee. Remember, I'm a volunteer, I don't take a dime from Crossroads. We raised $328 million last year and Haley Barbour and I are not on a salary or we don't get a percentage of the money. I paid my own expenses.

HANNITY: Karl, last word. Let me say this. Look, there were prominent people that didn't support Ted Cruz early, they supported Charlie Crist over Marco early. I just think that if the Republicans are fighting, Obama is happy. I don't want to see that happen.

ROVE: Look, I don't want a fight. And you mentioned Ted Cruz. We didn't -- nobody needed to be involved in the Texas primary. We had three good candidates and the best one won. So, we didn't need to be involved in that kind of thing. But if some people think the best we can do is Todd Murdock, excuse me, Todd Akin and Richard Murdock, they are wrong. We need to do better if we hope to take over the United States Senate, we need to get better conservative candidates and win.

HANNITY: All right. I wish Akin would have gotten out of that race. It would have helped give us a chance in Missouri.

ROVE: Yes.

HANNITY: All right. Karl, we will talk more about it in the days and weeks ahead. And thanks for being with us.

ROVE: You bet, thank you.

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