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Stockman: I was another target of Rove’s war on conservatives

Stockman: I was another target of Rove's war on conservatives
Rep. Stephen E. Stockman (R.-Texas)

The Texas congressman, who lost the March 4 GOP Senate primary to Sen. John Cornyn by a margin of 59 percent to his 19 percent, spoke to Human Events about the campaign, Karl Rove and conservative spectators.

“Well, at one time in the Houston-area, we had at one time–it was obviously different after all the attacks–we had a double-digit lead over Cornyn,” said Rep. Stephen E. Stockman, who represents suburbs outside of Houston.

“We had one of the lowest dollars per vote, which is to speaking to a Cornyn’s $12 to $14 million campaign, of which much of the money was directed at personal assaults and character assassinations of me in the Houston area,” he said.

“I was on the plane. They were reading the numbers turning bad for them,” he said.

“The guy told me he was working for Cornyn’s campaign and told me: ‘We’re all prepared for a runoff,’ I don’t know what to say. They got 59 percent,” he said.

“I thought it kind of funny that everybody said I would lose except for Cornyn. Everybody thought I could lose but Cornyn, because Cornyn knew that he has weaknesses,” he said.

“We got a quarter million votes in Texas and that we kept him under 60 percent. We should have kept him under 50, though,” the congressman said. In Texas primaries, if the winner does not get half the vote, there is a run-off between the top two vote-getters.

“We were within striking distance,” he said. “The guy spends $12 million, he can’t even get over 60 percent of the vote? There were high undecided, and at the end there, 8.6 broke our way–and we couldn’t get anybody to even come out for a paper endorsement.”

A Human Events/Gravis poll taken three weeks before the primary that pitted just Stockman and Cornyn showed Cornyn with 43 percent, Stockman at 28 percent and 29 percent undecided. The poll did not include Dwayne Stovall, a Tea Party candidate who receive 11 percent in the primary.

In the three weeks after the poll, the undecided decided to go with Cornyn, not Stockman. But, the congressman said he is still convinced the senator’s support is not strong.

Unlike Sen. R. Edward “Ted” Cruz, Cornyn’s fellow GOP colleague, Cornyn does not spent time in Texas between elections,” he said. “Cruz is always out on the hustings, every weekend. I don’t know how long he’s going to keep it up.”

Stockman, who announced his surprise candidacy Dec. 9, the last day for filing, said he ran so that Cornyn would not go unopposed.

Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Texas)  (Courtesy)

Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Texas) (Courtesy)

Cornyn, the number two GOP leader in the upper chamber, has been the constant foe of conservatives and conservative legislation on Capitol Hill, he said.

It was the congressman’s hope that Rep. Louis B. Gohmert challenged Cornyn, he said. But, when Gohmert and others passed, Stockman felt it was up to them.

In the four-month campaign, neither Gohmert nor any other member of the Texas Republican congressional delegation endorsed or came to the aid to the Stockman campaign, he said.

“It’s a very tight delegation,” he said.

“If you challenge someone in the pride, you’re kind of ostracized a little bit. To be honest with you, I like them all. They’re very nice people. There’s a certain- it is the largest Republican delegation in the House. There’s a certain degree of loyalty and commitment, which I understand, I respect,” he said.

Although, Cruz did not endorse Stockman, he did help the congressman in three ways, he said.

First, he energized conservatives by barnstorming the states, he said. Second, he forced Cornyn to vote to break his filibuster of the measure raise the debt limit for one year without a number restriction—a move that took away the debt issue from Republicans challenging incumbent Democrats.

Then, Cruz refused to endorse Cornyn until after the primary, he said.

Just as Stockman needs to work out his role as a conservative spear thrower and spear catching on Capitol Hill, conservatives need to figure out what to do about Karl Rove.

From the repose of his Virginia estate, Rove will never again wield the raw power that was his during the decade he was the man at the side of George W. Bush.

But that does not mean he will not try.

The age-old conflict between the Republican establishment and conservatives centers on how the establishment relies on conservatives votes, but refuses to advance the conservative agenda, lest it complicate personal friendships with the Democratic establishment or force them to explain the slogans their consultants scripted for them.

What it means is that the GOP leadership wants to be in power, but does not want the stress and strain of exercising power.

Stockman said he was just the latest and he will not be the last, as he took on attacks from a political action committee that shared a Warrenton, Va., address with Rove’s American Crossroads PAC.

Stockman said this an old routine between two.

Karl Rove (White House photo)

Karl Rove (White House photo)

“People don’t know this, Rove and I had gone back many years. Rove loathes me,” the congressman said.

The two men met after Stockman defeated in the 1994 “Contract with America” wave Texas political legend Jack Brooks, a three-decade veteran of the House and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. It was Brooks, who hired young Hillary Rodham to help his staff impeach President Richard M. Nixon.

Brooks led the fight to pass the so-called Assault Weapon Ban, and Stockman made him pay.

Stockman said, “It started when Bush was running for president. When my won my election against Jack Brooks, he debriefed me for four or five hours to understand how I ran campaigns.”

For some reason, the congressman said he never learned, after speaking with him, Rove has worked to end his political career in every election since then.

What Stockman describes as the Rove method is a quick three-step process. First, he accuses the conservative of being crazy, which is eaten up by the media. Then, Rove works to shut off the money. Finally, he finds some paperwork irregularity or decades-old brush with the courts and blows it up into, well, Watergate.

In addition to Cruz, go down the list: Sharron Angel, Nevada; Joseph W. Miller, Alaska, Sen. Marco A. Rubio (R.-Fla.); Christine T. O’Donnell, Delaware and Sen. Randall H. “Rand” Paul (R.-Ky.).

“It wasn’t the Democrats that were doing some of that most dirtiest, vicious stuff. It was Rove and company,” he said.

“They used the same technique over and over again. What’s unfortunate is our side buys into those arguments and starts adopting the same arguments which Rove was putting forth. Then, it becomes self-fulfilling,” he said.

“He comes out early attacking so that the money drives up. People go, ‘Oh, Stockman’s crazy,’” the congressman said. “He puts out both through the media and through stories they plant. He goes after the individual. This is an MO that you see him consistently do on conservative candidates.”

“It’s the same things he does over and over again. In fact, he actually told me one time, what he usually does is pull someone’s FEC report and goes through each one of these people and try to get the donor to not donate, or to donate to his candidate,” he said. “It’s one of the first things he does is pull the plug on the funding of his opponent. It’s almost like slitting the throat of an animal. That way, the animal weakens so he can go in for the kill.”

Once the money started to dry up, Rove trumpets: “Stockman has no money,” he said. “But he’s working behind the scenes, making sure no one contributes to us.”

Under assault from Rove, Stockman said he was disappointed that none of the conservative commentators and advocacy groups, who complained about Cornyn, came to help his campaign.

In fact, while Gun Owners of America endorsed him, the National Rifle Association sent multiple direct mailing with its endorsement of Cornyn, which can only mean that it prefers senators, who are moderately in favor of restoring gun rights. Stockman was endorsed by Dick Heller, whose landmark Supreme Court case, Heller v. District of Columbus, ushered in the current era expanding gun rights.

By law, Stockman said, he could not coordinate with certain independent groups, but when he heard that when they were asked if they were going to get involved, they all demurred.

“They go: ‘No, no, no. We saw that you can’t win. You can’t win.’ Blah, blah, blah. Now, they’re going like: ‘Well, maybe you could have won,’” he said.

“Oh, my goodness. We were outspent by such a huge amount,” he said. “If they had come in with just a little bit of money, I could easily taken him to a run-off.”

The congressman said he will fight for conservatism through the end of his term, but the way he was abandoned confuses him.

“I’m really frustrated with the lack of support from- I don’t see a value in doing things unless I get more support from the outside groups. You do it by yourself, and it’s effective,” he said.

“But apparently, that’s not impressive or do many groups even care? I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t have the mindset of the outside groups. I don’t understand the logic. I know Brent Bozell created some target leadership group–I don’t know–if you’re second-in-command–I would argue that’s leadership.”

Just as conservatives need to figure out how to confront Rove’s jihad against them, Stockman needs to figure out how to and whether to reprise his role as conservative spear catcher for the rest of his term.

“I hadn’t given it a great deal of thought,” he said.

“There’s a number of things we can do. We’ll set the platform or agenda for future races,” he said.

“Everybody says: ‘Well, you lost,’ So did Barack Obama. So did Bill Clinton. So did Abraham Lincoln. Everybody’s like: ‘Well, it’s over for you, bye.’ I’m like: ‘Okay, bye,” but I’m not going away.’

 

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