The news Sunday that a Republican group was forming to recruit better Senate candidates and counter conservative organizations' attempts to sway primaries was met with immediate antagonism by at least one conservative group.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, issued a statement calling the project "another example of the Republican establishment's hostility toward its conservative base" and even criticizing the new group's name, Conservative Victory Project.
The statement came in reaction to a New York Times story that detailed the initiative being formed by American Crossroads, a GOP-aligned super PAC built to help Republicans get elected to office. Republican strategists are concerned about a replay of the past two election cycles, when at least five Senate seats were jeopardized specifically because of the quality of the Republican candidate nominated.
"There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected,” American Crossroads President Steven Law told the newspaper.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee faced backlash from conservative activists in 2009 for quickly endorsing the candidacy of then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, when now-Sen. Marco Rubio, whom conservatives preferred, was already in the race. The NRSC took a much more hands-off approach in the 2012 cycle, but that resulted in nominees such as former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, whose controversial comments about "legitimate rape" and pregnancy resulted in a top-tier pickup opportunity being wiped off the map.
Of course, establishment-backed candidates such as former Virginia Sen. George Allen and former Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg lost as well in what was a bad year overall for the GOP.
"This is a continuation of the establishment's effort to avoid blame for their horrible performance in the 2012 elections," Senate Conservatives Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins said. "They blew a ton of races up and down the ticket because they recruited moderate Republicans who didn't stand for anything. Now they want to use this new PAC to trick donors into giving them more money so they can lose more races."